Ante up to Hyundai cause

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 5, 2002

Messenger Publisher

Just how much local governments will "ante up" to the Hyundai cause remains to be seen.

Representatives of both the Pike County Commission and Troy City Council confirmed this week that their boards had been asked to contribute $350,000 each to the state’s incentive package used to lure the $1 billion Hyundai assembly plant to Hope Hull.

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"We have been asked by the state (to contribute)," said Karen Berry, chairman of the financially strapped Pike County Commission. "But … we’ve got to look out for Pike County."

State officials included $18 million in support from local governments as part of Alabama’s $234 million incentive package offered to Hyundai. State taxes account for 51 percent of the package, and governments – state and local – are funding 37 percent of the total amount. The remaining 12 percent is paid by private companies, according to Henry Mabry, state finance director.

Mabry has said the incentive package breaks down to about $117,317 per job, based on the initial expectations of 2,000 jobs.

Local governments were asked to formalize their pledges by May 15. And while many agencies across the region have formalized the pledge, neither the county commission nor the Troy City Council has officially considered the request.

What those government agencies will do about the pledge remains unknown.

With both the city and the county commission being asked to increase funding substantially for economic development efforts within Pike County, some leaders question whether local governments should make such a large contribution to the state package.

"We’ve got needs – needs that we’re talking about (here in Pike County) – and that kind of money needs to be directed toward economic development here," said Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford.

Moreover, the mayor said he remains surprised by the amount of money requested from Troy and Pike County, particularly since the communities were asked to contribute in proportion to the projected economic impact the plant will have locally.

"I have no idea how (the researcher) could come up with a $350,000 benefit from Hyundai (in Pike County)," he said. "Especially since Greenville was only asked for $100,000 and it’s a lot closer, has interstate access and a higher unemployment rate."

While state officials have not made public the specific amounts requested from governments, some cities and counties have made that information public.

In Chilton County, for example, the county commission was asked to contribute $125,000 but made no contribution. The City of Clanton was asked to contribute $375,000, but pledged only $250,000.

In Tallapoosa County, the county commission pledged $200,000; the Alexander City council pledged $600,000.

Dallas County and Selma have together pledged $900,000.

Berry said the Pike County Commission would consider the request at its May 13 meeting. The Troy

City Council will do the same on May 14, Lunsford said.

Those boards will also consider the Pike County Chamber of Commerce request to increase funding for a more focused economic development effort. The requested increases are substantial – a $15,000 increase for Troy from $55,000 to $80,000 and a $30,000 for Pike County, from $10,000 to $40,000.

Both Berry and Lunsford indicated this week that they supported the local funding initiative. "We’ve got some opportunities we’re facing right now, and if we don’t take advantage of them now, October will be too late," Lunsford said.

Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage said his community had not been asked to make a pledge. "I guess they know all our money went to the Wal-Mart Distribution Center" project, he said.

The city has been asked to double its funding for local economic development, from $10,000 annually to $20,000.

He said he would recommend to the Brundidge council members that they fund the local efforts.