An economic development director shared with me years ago the most important part of his job was to keep the current jobs in the community in place.
Working to bring a factory and 500 jobs to the area was/is important, but he refused to overlook the hundreds and thousands of jobs already providing a financial impact for families and businesses.
Members of the Poplar Bluff City Council faced that same question last year, and again recently when it came to the Briggs & Stratton facility in the Poplar Bluff Industrial Park.
The company announced early last year it would meet with Poplar Bluff and Murray, Kentucky, officials to discuss the futures of their plants. The city that came up with the best incentive package, it would seem, would keep its facility and gain additional jobs.
The Poplar Bluff City Council signed off earlier this month on a $42.9 million tax abatement plan on real and personal property for Briggs & Stratton over the next 30 years.
That action will keep the current 519 employees in place, and include 245 new full-time jobs within the next two years. Poplar Bluff City Manager Mark Massingham hopes the new-job total reaches closer to 400.
Briggs & Stratton will receive a 90% tax abatement on real and personal property included in the $42.9 million agreement.
Briggs & Stratton plans $500,000 of improvements to the Poplar Bluff plant, and new project equipment valued at $28.4 million.
Some in the community are claiming the loss in tax revenue because of the abatements is too much and the city council shouldn’t have agreed to the deal.
I understand their point. The taxing entities impacted by the agreement are Poplar Bluff, Butler County, Poplar Bluff R-I School District and Three Rivers College. It’s potential revenue not received.
But they will be receiving 10%, and with the planned improvements, that’s more than they would have received if the plant had closed. And local families and businesses will reap the benefits for the next 30 years.
The Murray community is feeling a pain today I hope Poplar Bluff never does. Families are trying to figure out “what’s next” and many businesses will find out soon enough how the loss of jobs will affect them.
On the flip side, I’m happy for our community. And it was important for leaders to step up and make a decision. Whether or not you agree with that decision is OK. But there were a lot of middle-class families sitting anxiously and waiting to see if they were going to lose their family’s ability to pay their mortgage or rent, groceries and baby formula.
The city, county and entire area will majorly benefit from the plant staying here and the additional jobs. If the plant had left, and many of its employees with it, that’s a huge hit to our local and area economy.
The amount of money schools receive from the state is based on total students. If just a quarter or half of the employees left to go to Murray or another out-of-area employer, tax dollars go with them. And our schools lose a chunk of change.
Those same workers pay local sales tax when they purchase items at the store, and they also pay property tax if they own their home. And there are several businesses in Poplar Bluff because of Briggs & Stratton.
I’m not sure you can put a total figure on potential lost revenue for our community if Briggs & Stratton closed, but it would easily be in the millions. Take that times 30 and the potential loss is staggering.
The city is trying to figure out avenues for new income to help with poor infrastructure and other city expenses.
One of those ways is a Use Tax for internet transactions within the city limits conducted with out-of-state vendors, including catalog and direct market sales. The User Tax would be 2.25% per transaction. A customer wouldn’t pay regular sales tax AND the User Tax. If the transaction took place online, it would be the User Tax. If the purchase was made in a city store, the customer would pay the normal sales tax.
The Daily American Republic buys certain items online and will be subject to this User Tax. The newspaper is willing to do our part to help the city provide needed services. A purchase of $500, for example, would cost the newspaper just $11.25 in User Tax.
I understand how some feel about mistrust in government. There have been some happenings locally, over the past 20-plus years and even recently, that have raised concerns. The recent debate over the location of city hall and police department hasn’t helped.
Many don’t understand the history and facts of the location selected for the police station. Untruths about entities, both businesses and people, have been spread that simply aren’t true.
Instead of going to the sources for answers, rumors are often presented as truths. And innocent people and businesses get harmed. And that’s a shame.
The DAR has shared its disappointment through the years over decisions made by some leaders in our community. We’ve also patted them on the back when appropriate.
In the case of the Briggs & Stratton decision, the repercussions of doing nothing — or saying no — would have been felt by many for years to come.
A decision was made, and I suggest we move on and continue to make Poplar Bluff, Butler County and the area a great place to live and raise a family. If you don’t agree with the Briggs & Stratton decision, an election will take place in April and your vote will make a difference in future decisions.
And on April 7, please get out and vote on the User Tax question. It’s just 2.25 cents on every dollar you spend online with out-of-state vendors.
Thank you for reading the DAR.
Chris is the publisher for the Daily American Republic and can be reached by email at email@example.com .