Economic development stays on county’s radar



May 3, 2017 - 12:00 AM

Allen County is on the verge of dedicating specific funds for the purpose of economic development. The money will come in large measure by increased assessed valuation from the Enbridge pipeline company.
The fund contains about $2 million, and will be fattened in the years ahead from property taxes paid by Enbridge. Also adding to the pot will be taxes reaped if one or both of two wind farm companies follow through on plans set up shop in the east part of the county.
Bill Maness, economic development director for Thrive Allen County, handed a detailed plan to commissioners Tuesday, part of which proposed a $300,000 budget line item built from $100,000 for three years, starting in 2018.
“Given the climate we’re in and the possibility of more money coming our way (from the wind farms), I think it’s time to jump,” said Commissioner Tom Williams, with developing a set of standards to deal with requests from both existing and prospective businesses.
Requests would be filtered through a committee, probably made up of seven from across the county. Commissioners would have final say over their recommendations.
“This isn’t an Iola project,” Maness said. Rather, “it takes in all of the county.”
Mentioned prominently was the lack of adequate lodging. Maness expanded: “Humboldt doesn’t have any, nor does Moran,” which means visitors often favor Chanute or Fort Scott, where new facilities are available.
Revenue lost comes in the form of taxes and commercial activity.
“Good things can happen if we’re prepared to deal with them,” Maness said.
Commissioner Jerry Daniels characterized the strategy as “establishing a process,” and then went on to recommend they institute an economic development arm for the county. Commissioner Jim Talkington, however, was reticent to support the move.
Instead, Talkington said commissioners should use the funds to pay off the construction debt at Allen County Regional Hospital. “I don’t like debt hanging over my head.”
Williams disagreed with committing reserves to the hospital, pointing out debt service was a part of the hospital’s overall program by using sales tax revenue and hospital profits.
“The only way we’d be responsible is if the hospital defaulted,” Williams said, adding it might be wise to establish a line item in the county budget that could come in play with that unlikely occurrence.

IN A RELATED commentary, Humboldt Administrator Cole Herder announced CDL Electric of Pittsburg would open a satellite in Humboldt’s industrial park.
CDL is noted for its expertise in railroad and traffic signals, security systems and other electrical contract work.
The company has a presence in several cities, including Parsons and Nevada, Mo., and chose Humboldt to give it access to areas northwest of current facilities.

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