Jefferson County Commission

JeffCo Commission Prez Floats Idea of Fund to Help Existing Businesses Grow, Startups Get Off the Ground

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens during the commission’s June 20, 2023 committee meeting. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens on Tuesday broached the idea of the commission creating an economic enhancement fund.

Speaking during the commission’s committee meeting, Stephens said the new fund would be different from the existing economic development fund.

“The economic development fund is to attract new business and create jobs,” the commission president said. “The other is to enhance existing businesses and to maintain and grow jobs. There are several different organizations that work with startup companies or create jobs in some of the underprivileged areas.”

The economic development fund is for projects like Smuckers, Stephens said. Those are big projects where property would be purchased and $1 million at a time might have to be spent.

“This (enhancement) fund would be more to growing existing businesses and helping them to expand and grow,” Stephens said. It would improve the quality of life in areas of the county that cannot support a large manufacturing plant.

The enhancement fund could come at least partly from economic development, Stephens and finance committee chairman Commissioner Joe Knight said. Stephens added that enhancement funds could also come from surplus money.

“You’ve got to have a dependable source of funds,” the commission president said. “That’s what we’re looking for. That’s two sources. One would be the economic development fund and one would be one of our tax sources that you could dedicate X amount of dollars from. That, I think, would probably be more dependable.”

McCalla Bridge

During the committee meeting, Stephens expressed concern about a proposal from the Roads and Transportation Department to shut down a bridge on Charles Hamilton Road in McCalla, detouring traffic from that crossing. Stephens, whose district includes McCalla, said he had received complaints from residents in the area.

“I wanted to make sure the citizens were serviced there,” he said. “We don’t want to say that if we can save $1.5 million, we won’t build a bridge. That’s not what we do. We’re not into saving money. Our roads and trans (department) should be into spending money and improving the quality of life of our citizens.”

The commission president asked Roads and Transportation to reexamine its plan so he can discuss it with residents.

“If they’re good with closing it down and building two round-abouts there, I’m good with it,” Stephens said. “But they don’t want to be told that’s what’s going to happen without them having their good input into it.”

ARPA Funds

County Manager Cal Markert presented a pair of resolutions related to American Rescue Plan Act funds. One terminated the county’s agreement with Priority Soldier to provide a mental health program. The other allotted $30,000 to Vulcan Park Foundation.

Each was moved to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting. Commissioner Lashunda Scales urged Markert to be aware of any unspent funds – particularly ARPA money – that can be used in the 2024 budget.