Chamber, city working on retail project
by James Phillips
May 03, 2013 | 2436 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Officials with the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County updated members of the Jasper City Council on a retail project that could soon move forward within the city.

Chamber President Linda Lewis and Robert Jolly, CEO of Birmingham-based Retail Strategies, said the retail development would include four big box stores but the names of those businesses could not be announced until a deal was finalized.

Jolly and council members discussed incentives that could help to finalize the deal. Jolly, who advocates the interests of the city in negotiations with the developer, suggested an incentives package totaling $1.7 million. The agreement presented to council members showed the city and developer sharing retail sales tax on a 30 (city)-70 (developer) split of the total city sales tax (less allocation to schools). The agreement would expire 10 years from the first retail transaction or when the total rebate from the city to the developer reaches the cap of $1.7 million.

“$1.7 million is the number — that will help get the overall project across the goal line,” Jolly said. “These dollars do not currently exist. It is a revenue share. It only happens when the project is in motion.”

Council member Gary Cowen said the city had suggested an incentives package of $1.5 million.

“In my opinion, we have got to get to $1.7 million for the numbers to work,” Jolly said.

Cowen said the city would offer upfront funds in several ways, including waste disposal, permits and tax collection on construction. He felt those funds could be increased to help get to the deal to $1.7 million.

Jolly said the possible project would be located on U.S. 78 at an existing shopping center. He said the current buildings on the property would be destroyed.

“This would be a total tear down and built to prototype,” Jolly said.

The demolition of the current structures could provide an area for more upfront funds, Cowen said.

Lewis said moving the project forward would take a unified effort.

“Jasper was recently named in the Top 5 for being business friendly,” she said. “That designation was given to the city because they will work with developers. This is definitely got to be a partnership between all of us.”

Lewis said the name of the developer as well as the names of stores included in the project could not be released at this time. She did say the project could bring as many as 90 new jobs to Jasper. Lewis also said the project would bring an estimated $288,000 per year in new tax revenue to the city during the term of the incentives agreement and more than $540,000 per year once that term has expired, which officials have estimated at six years.