Jefferson County Commission

JeffCo Commission to Consider Funding for Business Expansion Company

Commissioner Joe Knight talks during the 9.26.23 committee meeting of the Jefferson County Commission. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Joe Knight expressed concern about an appropriation that will be on the agenda of Thursday’s Jefferson County Commission meeting, fearing that it would set a precedent.

“That should have been grouped with the rest of them,” the commission’s finance committee chairman said. “That was my concern.”

Birmingham Business Resource Center was on Knight’s list to be considered among 10 entities seeking money from $1.9 million the county has left over from its fiscal 2023 budget. Knight’s contingency list was tabled so commissioners can review it before their next committee meeting.

Commissioner Sheila Tyson subsequently presented a separate resolution to provide $500,000 to BBRC, which aims to help start-up companies get established. She said efforts during the past five years to get funding for the company had been unsuccessful.

“My problem was this came in where we come in with our community funds that we say, ‘I want this for my district,’” Knight said. “Well, now I’ve got a new thing coming in. Say I want this project and we’ll put it under my community development. But it’s the whole county.  It’s doesn’t come out of (an individual commissioner’s) budget.”

Funding for BBRC was added to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting on 3-2 vote with Knight and Commissioner Mike Bolin voting against the measure.

“We rarely turn down somebody’s discretionary request,” Knight said. “But this? It should be grouped with the rest of these people who have applied for these leftover funds. Why are we treating it special? Because (former Commissioner Steve) Ammons would never put it on?

“Here’s the issue,” he continued. “There are other people out there doing it too. And they’re coming. They’ll be coming now. ‘You did it for him, but not for me.’”

Others on Knight’s contingency list included requests from the Vulcan Foundation for $150,000, the Consumer Financial Education Foundation of America for $350,000, UAB Athletics for $200,000 and Rickwood Field for $1 million.

Tax Break for Business Expansion

In other business, the commission sent to Thursday’s agenda an economic development project in which Jay Industrial Repair is seeking a tax abatement as it expands its company and increases operations in a new 14,700-square-foot building in Jefferson County. Commission President Jimmie Stephens expressed concern about the 1% sales tax abatement.

“We’re abating money that goes to our indigent health care and the health department,” Stephens said. “Both of those funds are significant. But it’s relied upon by our citizens who really do need it. We need to be very careful as we abate those taxes.

“I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a large amount that would affect the ability of those two organizations to help the quality of life of our people.”