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A couple of Paris Economic Development Corp. board members made a last-ditch effort to keep funding for a retail marketer in the PEDC budget, but were voted down.
“I would suggest we keep the Retail Attractions portion of the budget intact when we send it back,” board member Bruce Carr said.
The Paris City Council rejected PEDC’s budget in June, directing the PEDC board to remove funding for Red River Region Business Incubator and Retail Attractions. A few weeks ago, Retail Attractions founder Rickey Hayes made a presentation to the City Council that Carr said “made a pretty compelling argument for somebody supporting some kind of retail marketing.”
“We have had a spurt of growth recently, and most of that is due to the work of Rickey Hayes,” board Vice-Chair Toni Clem said. “We have been doing it successfully, and no one else is stepping up to the plate.”
Retail Attractions is near the end of its third one-year agreement with PEDC, and Hayes is in the middle of at least one major retail development project, Executive Director Steve Gilbert said.
“When all this discussion began, Rickey and I talked, and we made an agreement to try to wrap up all the projects we had in an orderly fashion by the end of September because that’s all the time we knew we had,” he said.
PEDC didn’t need to pull the plug in the middle of such a large project, Carr said. If the board did continue funding, it should be a one-time thing rather than an ongoing arrangement, he said.
PEDC exists to create jobs in manufacturing and industry, board member David Turner said. He said as the organization is currently set up, it could not pay for retail marketing. He also reiterated the council’s stated position.
“They told us they’re not going to approve a budget with these two things in it,” Turner said. “Before we start shoving a budget back into their face contrary to what we were directed to do, I think it might be advisory to get some kind of opinion.”
Type A corporations like PEDC are allowed to spend up to 10 percent of revenue on promotions and marketing. For Paris, that would come to $120,000. Various attorneys have indicated the $33,000 PEDC has been spending on Retail Attractions is well within what the corporation is allowed, Clem said.
Board Chair Rebecca Clifford said PEDC has been spending more than 10 percent on promotions according to her analysis of the budget.
If the City Council believes Retail Attractions’ services are important enough, the city should fund Hayes’ work, Clifford said. Clem asked if she would go before the council as PEDC’s board president and make that suggestion.
“This is not a PEDC-type expenditure,” Clifford said.
The board also voted to ax $10,000 for Rachel Schory, a part-time contract employee whose duties include grant writing and some website maintenance. Last month, Clifford criticized the PEDC website for dead links, blank pages and outdated information.
“I think we can do that in-house or locally,” board member Vicki Ballard said. Schory telecommutes for her work for PEDC, as she does not live in the Paris area.
Gilbert said most of her work has been for grant writing, which kept her busy.
“I’m at a point with this budget – let’s do what we’re going to do and move on,” he said. “Arguing about this is wearing everybody out.”
“I agree with Steve,” Ballard said. “I’m sick of hearing about the budget.”
“We’re all sick of hearing about the budget,” Clem said.
Carr made a motion to approve the budget without the business incubator or Schory that retained Retail Attractions “for this time and this time only.” Clem seconded the motion. Clifford, Turner and Ballard voted against.
After that, Carr made another motion to approve a budget without all three, seconded by Turner. It passed 4-1 with Clem the dissenting vote.
After voting yes, Turner, who had crossed to the other side of the room for a moment asked: “What was I voting on?”
The revised budget went from $600,000 to $467,000 in expenses.
Part of the budget involves implementation of a business plan that began in January 2012. Carr said a lot of work went into that plan. He suggested some of the newer members may want to take the time to familiarize themselves with the business plan.
Rather than slashing the budget, Carr said, it would be better to take time to review PEDC’s finances and paring expenses that could be cut over the coming months.
“You don’t do that by hacking away at it,” he said.
Clifford asked Carr and Turner to work on that and report back to the board. In addition, Carr will work with Ballard to review PEDC operating policies.
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra