Faced with a rising unemployment rate during the last decade, Jefferson County voters overwhelmingly approved a local sales tax hike dedicated to economic development pursuits.
Supported by local business leaders and spearheaded by the Jefferson County Economic Development Corp., county voters passed the three-eighth of a cent sales tax increase by a margin of 4,763 to 2,350.
The tax increase, which will sunset in 7 years, will raise an estimated $3.5 million annually for jobs training, site preparation and marketing, and economic incentives for new and existing businesses.
Jefferson County unemployment has hovered between 9.2% and 10.5% in 2010. It ended 2010 with a jobless rate of 10.1%, more than two full percentage points above the state rate.
In the year 2000, unemployment averaged 5.7% for the county, which has seen a decades-long population and business decline.
Other counties and cities in Arkansas have approved local sales taxes dedicated for economic development. One of the most successful communities is in Mississippi County, which has landed a number of large manufacturing-related employers thanks to its ability to add local incentives through its half-cent sales tax.