The Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 this week to pull out of the Tulare County Economic Development Corporation. The independent agency whose goal it is to increase economic activity in the county, has now lost the support of the County itself. The County has supported the countywide economic development agency for some 31 years.
The majority of the supervisors said they were disappointed by the” lack of communication” between the County and the agency headed up by EDC president Paul Saldana. They noted the agency had not offered a report to the supervisors ”in quite some time.” The county sends the TCEDC $79,200 annually in dues and over the past 14 years has contributed $1.1 million.
Chair of the board Phil Cox says after he heard what the majority of the supervisors had to say about the performance of the EDC he decided “it’s time to cut the apron strings.”
“The last straw for me was our trying to convince them to work to expand existing businesses and not only concentrate on bringing in new companies.” He says their ideas were ignored.”We know 80% of our economic expansion comes from existing business.”
County staff had outlined three choices the supervisors might consider in making their decision. But only supervisor Pete Vander Poel moved to cut the funding level to $20,000 a year with the rest deciding the end the relationship.
Staff noted the end of the state Enterprise Zone program that was overseen by the EDC that will coincide with the end of the county contribution with the new fiscal year in July.
In the meantime the County has funded a new Economic Development Office that is promoting business expansion around the county including new solar and alternative energy projects and new retail and other development in the county’s smaller towns.
The Tulare County Economic Development Corporation board is meeting one day after the decision,on February 26, to plan their next move.
Tulare County EDC vice chair Craig Vejvoda,a council member from the City of Tulare,supported the EDC’s track record speaking to the supervisors at their meeting this week.
Vejvoda submitted a letter from their board that concluded that “The Tulare County Economic Development Corporation has a long history of success and the vast majority of the board of directors are pleased with the performance of the EDC staff.”
The letter pointed out that in a 2011 SCE fiscal impact study “for the prior four fiscal years, the County contributed $276,800 to the EDC and the return on investment during the same time period the projects the EDC assisted with generates $466,000 annually to the County in taxes and fees. The Board of Supervisors indicated at the time that receiving $2.24 in new annually recurring revenue for each $1.00 contributed was a good return on investment.”
“Another fiscal impact analysis was conducted by Southern California Edison in 2013 for projects the EDC worked on since the joint meeting with your Board.These projects generate $256,000 in new annually recurring revenue to the County. In addition, projects that have been announced but not yet constructed will potentially generate another $530,000 in new annually recurring revenue to the County of Tulare.”
Vejvoda says the EDC “will now have to scale back some and perhaps seek more support from private companies.
Saldana says the EDC’s current 2013-14 budget is $576,381.” In August 2013, we developed a preliminary budget for 2014-15 of $369,290 based on the elimination of the enterprise zone program and the expected elimination of participation by the County. That may change over the next couple of months as we finalize our budget and work plan, but that has been the number we have been planning on since August. ”
The County staff report notes that the EDC was notified some time back of likely cuts and had expressed confidence it could continue to carry out its work. Each entity’s economic development staffers have said privately they would continue to cooperate with each other, vowing to work together.
The EDC board is made up of representatives of the 7 cities,public utilities,real estate and construction firms as well as banks.
Most recently the EDC has been named as a lead contact in helping to bring in a new cheese plant to Tulare. Leads from various state and regional sources often come to the EDC offices based in Tulare.
Vejvoda has “we will continue on our mission which is job creation in Tulare County.” The EDC claims it has had a hand in bringing in some 100 companies into the county including the clothing distributor VF Corp in Visalia who appear in EDC advertisements.