RDA Happenings May 2012
Posted on May 1, 2012 – By Emporia RDA
On July 2, 1993, the Regional Development Association of East Central Kansas (RDA) was incorporated. On July 3rd, 2012, the RDA will be beginning its 20th year of existence. Much has been accomplished with the collective efforts of the members – City of Emporia, Emporia Enterprises, Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce, Lyon County and Emporia State University.
The RDA in its early beginnings had a modest budget which clearly was inadequate to be competitive. Then Emporia was in the hunt for the Cessna project in 1994. The project became public, so all the Kansas communities competed on the project. The City Commission proposed the “Cessna” .-cent City Sales Tax, to be competitive on this project, and if not successful with Cessna would have a “war chest” for future projects.
Today the primary funding source for our industrial and economic development efforts is a .-cent City Sales Tax which is split between property tax relief and industrial/economic development, which then is split again between the Aquatic Center bond payments, improvements, performance-based cash incentives and the RDA marketing, expansion, retention and recruitment.
The .-cent City Sales Tax was overwhelmingly approved by the voters in 2000 and 2010. The sales tax will sunset on December 31, 2024, unless reauthorized by the voters.
During the 2000 election, the voters were asked to reapprove the sales tax; and consider funding the Aquatic Center, a quality of life improvement to the community. The voters approved the Aquatic Center and the request of the sales tax. On December 31, 2014, the Aquatic Center bonds will be paid in full, which will increase the amount of funding for the “war chest”.
We have had a tremendous Return on Investment in Emporia and Lyon County according to information gathered from the Lyon County Assessors website in the Park III area which is generally located in southeast Emporia from East South Avenue to East Logan Avenue. In Emporia, these new companies were: Camoplast, Lenze, Simmons Pet Food, Norfolk Iron & Metal, Hills Pet Nutrition and REG. In northern Lyon County, Westar Energy located a peaking plant which generates power from natural gas during the summer months. There is a total valuation of $50,106,099 with all these new businesses. Approximately 42% or $22,398,930 is currently on the tax rolls, which generates $780,968 in property tax collections. Another $5,449,650 in property tax will be collected when the tax abatements expire on Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Norfolk Iron & Metal and Westar Energy Center in the future.
Over the past 19 years, the RDA was able to leverage Emporia and Lyon County with growth in the late 1990’s with expansions of existing manufacturing businesses and recruitment of new industries our community was growing. Employment was low and the economy was robust. Then in early 2000 Didde declared bankruptcy and closed. Modine Manufacturing closed in 2005. On the positive side, we recruited. The Caterpillar plant, Norfolk Iron & Metal and Menu expanded three times. The job creation from those projects offset most of the job losses.
The recession of 2000-2002 slowed the growth of existing companies and expanding new companies.
In 2006, we assisted Westar Energy to locate the Emporia Energy Center natural gas peaking plant in northeast Lyon County. In 2007 Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Renewable Energy Group announced plans to locate and construct facilities in Emporia. These three projects lowered the unemployment rate and grew the economy.
In 2008, our economy began to soften, and then entered a major readjustment. The REG project was put on hold and Tyson Foods had a major lay-off and the closing of the slaughter line at the Emporia plant virtually a loss of 1,500 jobs.
The third quarter of 2008 is when the final crisis hit the national economy and the protracted recession began. In past recessions the economy would gain momentum in 18 months with increased demand, but with this recession, the demand has yet to increase.
This recession has been challenging; we are in a new age. The economy of 2000 was built upon an easily accessible financial bubble.