City Council will hear from Kings Economic Development Corporation at regular meeting

By Ed Martin, Editor

Lemoore councilmembers, at their December 16 meeting, will consider a request from the Kings County Economic Development Corporation that the city continue to fund the EDC’s mission to promote industrial and manufacturing development. They will also act to consider reappointment of two planning commissioners.

The Kings EDC has had a long relationship with the City of Lemoore until recently when the longtime economic development agency was dumped from the city’s budget during recent deliberations.

Former Mayor Billy Siegel was on the budget committee that decided the fate of the EDC during budget deliberations. Other members of the budget committee included City Manager Jeff Laws and Councilmember Wynne. Laws told The Leader at the time that he didn’t remember who recommended cutting the EDC, but judging by Siegel’s remarks during hearings, made it clear that he approved of it.

Siegel himself was unceremoniously dumped from his mayor’s position following a discussion of inappropriate remarks he made in an email about a councilmember. Siegel is the first mayor to be removed from the post.

Because the EDC was not listed a separate line item in the budget, no other councilmember knew it had been eliminated. Only a brief 15-second mention of the EDC was uttered during budget discussions in June and July.

City staff argued that industrial development may just not be in the cards for Lemoore. Currently industrial development is the primary focus of Kings EDC. “This type of development brings jobs and increased property tax revenue to the city, but typically does not generate sales tax revenue,” stated Laws in a staff report to council during recent discussions. The Lemoore Redevelopment Agency used to fund Kings EDC, he stated, but since the demise of the agency, funding has had to come from the Lemoore general fund.

In his remarks to councilmembers at the time, EDC Chairman John Lehn recited a laundry list of activities and services provided to the city of Lemoore, including business attractions, business retention, financing, and incentives. The EDC, he said, has participated in the location of major industrial partners Leprino Foods, Agusa, Budget Rent-a-Car, Communication Services for the Deaf, and K-Pack USA. The EDC was also instrumental in locating Western RV to the Lemoore Industrial Park, and provided business incentive information during SK Food’s recent sale to Olam.

Lehn said the top four industrial businesses in Lemoore contribute an estimated $4.7 million in annual property tax, and provide a payroll exceeding $87 million.

Furthermore, said Lehn, local businesses have benefitted from the Kings EDC. He told councilmembers that the EDC has loaned nearly $4 million to businesses in Lemoore at terms often more generous than what banks could provide.

The City of Lemoore was paying the EDC $37,079 annually to promote and attract economic development.

Councilmembers will also consider the reappointment of two longtime planning commissioners at their regular meeting. Jeff Garcia and Jim Marvin, who have served on the commission for a number of years, are seeking reappointment.

Mayor Lois Wynne will consider the appointments and seek consensus from councilmembers.

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