Fort Smith Directors approved a resolution supporting Arkansas Refrigerated Services, Inc. (ARS) for the Tax Back Program Tuesday night (Nov. 6) at the Fort Smith Board of Directors meeting.
The vote was approved 5-0 with directors Philip Merry and George Catsavis not in attendance. (Catsavis was busy retaining his Ward 4 post in a tightly contested election with challenger John Cooley.)
Despite the ARS approval, it did not come without opposition. Fort Smith resident David Harris warned the board that the company’s requested expansion would be “directly across the street from the Marshals Museum.”
“You’ve got tens of millions of dollars going in to the Marshals Museum, and it (ARS) is not compatible. The only way this will ever move is when it’s in their best interests, and every time the city allows them to expand, that’s more reason for them never to move.”
Harris continued: “At some point someone important is going to say we need to do something about that, and the city government is partly to blame.”
To that point, Fort Smith Director Kevin Settle said the question had arisen “what can the city do to help bring in jobs. Well, this is another avenue the city can use to bring in jobs.”
“Every little bit helps in this economy,” Settle added.
A total of 20 new positions are expected when the company adds $2.5 million to its existing facility. The move will make them eligible for the Tax Back Program, which “applies to capital purchases associated with construction of new facilities or expansion of existing facilities and does not apply to ongoing purchases,” said Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman.
The program is designed as an incentive for business growth and expansion to Arkansas through the refund of state and local sales tax revenue.
The majority of the incentive will come from the state sales tax rebate program administered by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), according to Dingman, but participation in the program is contingent on local government approval.
Also Tuesday, the board received the proposed city budget for 2013. Budget hearings will begin next Tuesday (Nov. 13) and will carry over to Thursday (Nov. 15), “finishing up on Monday (Nov. 19) if needed,” according to Fort Smith Administrator Ray Gosack.