EDA ... IDA What's the difference

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By James Roberts

The name may have changed, but the focus remains the same.

The Campbellsville/Taylor County Industrial Development Authority has been rechristened the Economic Development Authority. However, the switch is really nothing more than a name change, says Team Taylor County Executive Director Ron McMahan.

"The name change just reflects what Team Taylor County has been doing all along. Three of our larger businesses - Amazon.com, Frost-Arnett and Upstream - are non-manufacturing, service-oriented companies," McMahan said. "Also, most communities are organizing as economic development authorities instead of industrial development authorities.

"We want to let relocating companies and site selection consultants know we are interested in all new prospects, not just manufacturing."

The name change became official last month, following approval from the Campbellsville City Council and Taylor County Fiscal Court.

Dottie Cihlar, general manager of Upstream, said McMahan has been instrumental in helping the growing call center search for extra space.

Upstream's Campbellsville operation currently has 300 employees who handle customer service calls for e-Harmony, Orbitz.com, U.S. Airways Cargo and the New York Times. With so many employees working in Upstream's Hotchkiss Street building, Cihlar said there isn't enough room for a single new hire.

"We're looking for additional space," Cihlar said. "We're out of room."

Having moved to Campbellsville only about six months ago, Cihlar said McMahan has helped her get acquainted with the community, helped her make business connections and even found someone to repair her car's heater.

"He's been very, very helpful keeping me informed of what is going on in town," Cihlar said.

McMahan said his office offers the same assistance to service businesses as it does manufacturing industries.

"I market the available state incentives and skills training programs to both manufacturing and service-oriented businesses. Retail businesses aren't eligible for these programs, but the EDA is still interested in creating new retail jobs. All new jobs in Taylor County increase the tax base, primarily through additional occupational tax revenue."

McMahan will soon undertake a wage and benefit survey for retail businesses for the first time, a service he has provided to manufacturing and service businesses several times.

According to the most recent manufacturing and service business wage survey, the County's starting wage was $9.35, with one company raising its minimum starting wage to $10.50.

McMahan is also looking into the possibility of conducting a survey that would show how much retail dollars Taylor County residents are spending outside the county.

McMahan said Team Taylor County, which houses several agencies including the EDA, chamber of commerce and tourism offices, will continue assisting retail business owners.

"Our office and Web site are usually the first place people come to for demographics, traffic counts, maps and other information. Retail prospects naturally contact the EDA, chamber and tourism [offices] to get information not found in someone's database. We offer these statistics and answer their questions. We let them know we are a regional hub for retail, medical, education and entertainment."

A key component to retailers looking at sites for new stores, McMahan said, is population. While Census numbers are readily available online, McMahan said the EDA can offer additional information.

"The Campbellsville University students don't show up in our county's population estimates. Neither do the folks who live outside the county but shop and eat here. These things might help persuade new retail investment."

But marketing Taylor County to retail, service and manufacturing businesses isn't an inexpensive task.

The EDA will seek additional funding from the City and County governments for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

The City and County each contribute $100,000 annually to EDA, far less than other communities, McMahan said.

"I have talked with other economic developers in the area and their local governments are helping pay for their new industrial parks," McMahan told the News-Journal in January. "One nearby community is presently contributing over $300,000 per year to their authority and may increase that to $400,000 in 2008-2009."

Though he didn't say how much of an increase the EDA would seek, Board Chairman Mark Johnson told a Campbellsville/Taylor County Chamber of Commerce crowd in February that the EDA would ask for a "marginal increase in funding."

McMahan said additional funding would be used for debt service on the Heartland Commerce and Technology Park and general operating expenses.

"At this time, we just want to catch up with the amount of funding our neighboring communities have," McMahan said. "We've fallen behind. To be competitive, we need to be able to operate as well as those counties we compete with for new industrial, service or retail investment."

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.