About the Author
Author

Jeff Parish Jeff Parish is a high school English teacher and journalist. He has worked for the Greenville Herald-Banner, Dallas Morning News, The Paris News and Galveston County Daily News, among others. For comments, feedback or suggestions, you can email him at jeff@eparistexas.com.

Paris City Council appoints PRMC head to PEDC

Council-PEDCappointment

PRMC CEO Stephen Grubbs

Paris Regional Medical Center’s chief executive officer is the newest member of the Paris Economic Development Corp. board of directors.

Paris City Council members unanimously approved the appointment of Stephen Grubbs to the PEDC board Monday. Other applicants included Roy D. Beard, Rev. James Price and Thomas Dunning, executive director of the proposed Paris Lakes Medical Center.

Grubbs will serve out the unexpired term of Toni Clem, who resigned on Oct. 9 expressing dismay at the turn the PEDC board took as a result of three other recent PEDC appointments. Grubbs’ term expires on June 30, 2015. He will join Bruce Carr (2014), Vicki Ballard (2014), chairwoman Rebecca Clifford (2015), and David Turner (2016).

Each of the four applicants had an opportunity to make a statement and answer questions from the council. In an unusual addition, Mayor AJ Hashmi also allowed members of the audience to ask questions of the nominees.

“I understand the importance of promoting our community for economic development,” Grubbs said. “I understand the dynamics of our community.”

Hashmi asked how Grubbs would feel about addressing issues related to a $250,000 infrastructure improvement PEDC has agreed to fund as part of the proposed Paris Lakes Medical Center, which would be competition for PRMC.

“Naturally, there would be a conflict of interest perceived,” Grubbs said. “If those issues were to arise, I would have to recuse myself.”

One member of the audience said Paris has a strong workforce and elderly population. He asked if Grubbs would be willing to support industry that might attract younger workers. Grubbs said, “Absolutely.”

Price, a former president of the local NAACP chapter, said PEDC has not gone after minority businesses as aggressively as it should.

“My whole reason for wanting to be on the board is diversity,” he said. “There’s been no diversity since I’ve been here.”

Dunning told the council he was “very excited about the opportunity to work with you guys. I believe this project we’re working on will be instrumental to bringing new business to Paris.”

A member of the audience asked about a number of moving dates that have appeared in news reports about when construction at Paris Lakes should begin. Dunning responded that a nondisclosure agreement prevents him from discussing the project – and any dates in the media “didn’t come from us” – but he did say that it’s getting close.

The mayor said any discussion should revolve around PEDC, and the question shifted to whether PEDC should fund projects such as the $250,000 earmarked for Paris Lakes.

“Anything we can bring to this community that will make it more successful, PEDC should be for that,” he said.

Beard, a retired businessman, said he simply wants to help.

“My only reason for applying to the board is to help,” he said. “I’d like to keep jobs here – manufacturing jobs so we can keep our kids at home.”

When the comments were over, District 4 Councilman Richard Grossnickle’s nomination of Grubbs was the only one made.

“I think we need a person like him on the board, who can meet and greet prospective companies,” Grossnickle said.

In other business:

Council-VetsDayProc

  • The council approved a proclamation recognizing Nov. 11 as Veterans Day.
  • Council members unanimously approved a change to city alcoholic beverage ordinances that prohibits the sale of alcohol within 1,000 feet of a Paris Independent School District facility. City codes previously set the limit at 300 feet. The PISD school board had requested the change when a business filed for an application at a restaurant near Givens Elementary School. City Attorney Kent McIlyar said he did not believe any applications are currently pending, but the new ordinance would grandfather any existing buildings and applications filed before Monday.
  • The City Council approved Paris Economic Development Corp.’s request for a zoning change for a lot on the loop near the industrial park from single-family housing to light industrial.

By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra

Community thanksgiving worship service set for Nov. 21

eParisExtra logoA community thanksgiving worship service is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Nov. 21 at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, 1002 5th St. NE.

“This isn’t a meal. It’s a community-wide Thanksgiving worship service,” said Brad Aldridge, pastor of Christ Community Church. “It’s an opportunity to create unity in the midst of diversity.”

The event is an annual partnership of Paris Ministers Alliance and Lamar County Christian Ministers Association. Worship will be led by the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church choir and LaDonna Davis from Christ Community Church. Aldridge will deliver the message.

“The offering that’ll be taken that night will be distributed to Co-Ministry, Red River Valley Boys and Girls Club and Paris Pregnancy Care Center,” Aldridge said.

Mount Pisgah is this year’s host church, which changes each year. The event should last about an hour. There will be an opportunity for fellowship and refreshments after.

“We encourage all in the community to come and participate,” Aldridge said. “We encourage pastors in the community to get the word out.”

Christmas comes downtown

ChristmasKickoff_32Downtown kicked off the holiday season Saturday, with shops around the Plaza decorating for Christmas and the annual Christmas tree lighting.

Downtown merchants got into the spirit of things, many playing Christmas music and offering treats to those who visited their stores. Santa Claus landed at Creative Candy Designs shortly before 4 p.m. and made his way to the square, where he spent the evening visiting with kids and their parents. Two of his reindeer, Blitzen and Vixen, were on hand in a pen nearby. Elves and clowns also made an appearance.

Santa took a break from talking to children in his hut on the western side of the square a little after 6 p.m. to help light up the 30-foot tree light. The community choir offered music, beginning of course with “O Christmas Tree.”

There is more to come soon. Holiday events include:

  • Nov. 16: Storytime with Santa at the Paris Public Library at 11 a.m.; also on Dec. 7 and 14
  • Nov. 18: A drive-through lighted Christmas extravaganza at Crazy House Western Wear in Reno, which will continue through Jan. 1.
  • Nov. 21: A community thanksgiving service at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, 1002 5th St. NE at 6:45 p.m.
  • Nov. 23: Christmas in Paris arts and crafts show at Love Civic Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Nov. 28: The annual Turkey Trot on Trail de Paris at 8 a.m.
  • Nov. 30: Small Business Saturday
  • Dec. 1: Christmas Tour of Homes from 1 to 5 p.m.; the cost is $5.
  • Dec. 3: Songs of the Season at East Paris Baptist Church, 725 N. Collegiate; tickets are $8.
  • Dec. 5: “Annie,” presented by the Paris Community Theater, with more on Dec. 7, 8, 12, 13, 14 and 15
  • Dec. 7: 5K Reindeer Race at 8:15 a.m. downtown , benefitting the Paris Education Foundation. Historic Paris Trolley Tours, starting at 8 W. Plaza from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Christmas in Fair Park at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “A Rocking Christmas” lighted parade, with line up at 4 p.m. at the courthouse, pre-parade party on the square at 5 p.m. and the parade at 6 p.m.
  • Dec. 12: “Christmas in the Camp” with the Cowboy Church at the Red River Valley Bible Camp. Sign up begins at 5 p.m.; rides are from 6 to 9 p.m. The event is also set for Dec. 13 and 14
  • Dec. 14: Christmas at the Maxey House from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Santa Paws dog parade is set for 10 a.m. on the west side of the Plaza. Carriage rides will be available downtown from 2 to 5 p.m. Christmas light trolley rides for $5 a person will run from the Chamber of Commerce from 6 to 9 p.m.
  • Dec. 17: The Chamber of Commerce Shop Local $10,000 giveaway is set for 7 p.m.
  • Dec. 21: Breakfast with Santa at Love Civic Center from 8 to 10 a.m.

For more information, visit www.holidayinparistexas.com.

PEDC director gives breakdown of spending

PEDC Executive Director Steve Gilbert

PEDC Executive Director Steve Gilbert

A great deal has been said about Paris Economic Development Corp. spending in recent months. In a recent presentation at the Friday Rotary Club, PEDC Director Steve Gilbert offered a breakdown of where some of that money has gone.

Gilbert said he wasn’t trying to stir up any kind of debate.

“I was invited by the Friday Rotary to be a speaker at their luncheon meeting. I just gave Rotary an overview of the projects I’ve been involved in,” he said. “It was really pretty uneventful. It was not intended to be any sort of response. It was just to present some information in perspective of the debate.”

According to the director’s analysis, PEDC has spent $48,340 on administration in the last three years – an average of $16,115 a year – and $92,345 on marketing – or about $30,780 a year.

PEDC has conducted 44 business trips since 2010, or about 15 a year, and spent $140,687 on travel. That amounts to an average of $46,896 a year or $2,939 per trip. In the last three years, the corporation has spent:

  • $36,685 for 13 trips to national, state and regional professional association meetings, for an average of $2,822 each.
  • $18,218 for six meetings with major corporate real estate executives, or an average of $3,036 each.
  • $6,400 for three meetings with site selection consultants, for an average of $2,133 each.
  • $19,625 for eight trade shows and trade missions – an average of $2,453 per trip.
  • $6,190 for five presentations about Paris economic development activities.
  • $53,569 for nine trips related to Lamar County Days, governmental affairs in Austin and Washington and seeking highway funding, with an average cost of $5,952 each.

Industrial recruitment is a competitive endeavor that requires time and patience, Gilbert wrote in a handout for the Rotary program Friday. Much of his time is spent in networking and building relationships.

“Public perceptions of Paris are formed every day through the media and the Internet,” Gilbert wrote. “Our internal fighting gives our competitors the advantage.”

Nothing on the web goes away, he said, and the community needs to be united, respectful and cooperative – especially in how it deals with disagreements.

Paris Economic Development Corp. has focused on food and consumer goods manufacturing and water-using industries since 2010. Since last year, PEDC has been named in the Top 5 Award of Excellence in Food Processing by Expansion Solutions trade magazine; has been recognized by Gov. Rick Perry as one of the “Big Stories of 2013-2013” for the work with Campbell Soup and J. Skinner; and named the sixth strongest Texas micropolitan area and in the top 17 percent for the nation.

PEDC has committed $8.17 million for a series of projects that are expected to create 817 new jobs – 625 in the next five years – and invest $407.65 million:

  • At Campbell Soup, $2 million in incentives for a solar array installed on the supply storage pavilion, the Ready-To-Eat Soup line and Single-Serve Juice line, which will provide 120 jobs and a $72 million capital investment.
  • A $1.78 million incentive for the J. Skinner Baking Company, which plans to invest $25 million and provide 393 new jobs.
  • A $1.43 million investment in the widening of Texas 24 in Delta County, part of a larger $34 million project of the Texas Department of Transportation.
  • For Bodyguard Truck Accessories, an incentive of $302,188 in return for 43 new jobs and a $2.5 million investment to expand facilities.
  • A $664,300 incentive for Daisy Farms, which is providing 150 new jobs.
    PEDC has budgeted $250,000 for infrastructure to the planned Paris Lakes Medical Center development, which could invest as much as $73.25 million. How many jobs it stands to create has not yet been determined.
  • For Rogers-Wade/WePack Logistics, an incentive and loan guarantee of $105,000 with 42 new jobs coming in.
  • A $66,000 incentive for T&K Equipment, which is investing $4.2 million to expand and create
  • A $59,000 incentive for Potters Industries, which plans to invest $17.7 million in a new glass bead line and create 25 new jobs.
  • Bond debt of $2.12 million for job retention at Huhtamaki, which the company is repaying.

There have also been abatements given for retention of jobs at Paris Regional Medical Center and upgrades at Kimberly Clark. PEDC also has a project pipeline of confidential new deals in the works.
As of Oct. 1, PEDC had $2.98 million cash on hand. Revenue for the next 10 years is expected to be about $12 million, for a total of $14.98 million. With operating expenses of $4.68 million and the money committed for incentives, that leaves $2.14 million to the good.

Gilbert said the board has approved and been fully aware of all expenses, including travel and training, from 2010 to now. The PEDC policy manual was revised in January to say: “The Paris EDC staff and board of directors are well aware that the operating funds for the organization are generated by the local sales tax collections. Therefore, discretion shall be used when entertaining a business prospect and/or client to the purchase of alcohol and food. In today’s business climate, the practice of having a drink socially or with a meal is a common practice. All such expenditures will require that the executive director, assistant executive director or a board member be present and approve all such discretionary purchases.”

Bill Strathern

Bill Strathern

PEDC was created in 1993 by approval of the voters for a quarter-cent sales tax to carry out industrial development programs. The money was to be used for the creation and retention of jobs, labor force training, land acquisition, rehabilitation of existing structures, promoting Paris and improvement of streets and utilities related to industrial jobs.

A five-person board was set up to govern the corporation, with members appointed by the City Council. The board is to be comprised of people with experience with industry, non-management employees, financial expertise and industrial development.

The spending became a public issue after former Councilman Bill Strathern filed two open records requests. The first was for copies of all PEDC credit card bills, receipts and related documentation from October 2010 through July 2013. The second was for detailed expenses and other information about the 2013 Lamar County Days, as well as expense reports, internal financial controls and monitoring of incentive agreements.

Gathering the information required 64 man-hours and 2,127 copies, Gilbert said.

Rotary program Friday to focus on equality in school funding

PaulTrullEquity Center Director Wayne Pierce will speak on equality in education funding during this week’s Friday Rotary Club program.

The program is scheduled for noon Friday in the Paris Junior College ballroom. Pierce is the guest of Paul Trull, former superintendent of Paris Independent School District.

“Everyone’s invited. He’s going to give an update on why the schools have filed lawsuits and what it’s all about,” Trull said. “He’s the lead witness in the state school finance lawsuits, which hasn’t been decided. The judge has chosen to hear six more weeks of testimony in January.”

The Equity Center was founded in 1982 by 55 school districts in response to what they saw as inequities in the state’s school finance system. The Equity Center has become the largest research and advocacy organization of its kind in the nation.

The information is not just for school administrators and trustees, Trull said.

“I think it would be beneficial to everyone,” he said.