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Quincy leaders talk economy, electricity

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By Alice Du Pont

Quincy city commissioners tabled a proposal that would create an economic strategy to retain, expand and attract companies and industries to Quincy. One part of the strategy is an economic development initiative for electricity charges.

But commissioners voted to send the proposal “back to the drawing board” for staff to add additional
strategies.

“This is for new businesses that are not as large as your Wal-Mart, etc., that have a demand of 200 kilowatts per month. This is similar to a plan adopted by Tallahassee,” said Mike Wade, director of utilities.

Wade said the county’s unemployment rate in 2010 was 11.7 percent and in 2012 was 9.2 percent. The state’s unemployment in 2010 was 11.7 percent and 8.6 percent in October of this year. The national unemployment rate in October 2012 was 7.9 percent. While the economy is improving nationally, the unemployment rate for the county lags behind because of businesses closing, such as the Printing House, Sykes and Nisey’s Tasty Seafood, as well as the decline in home values and housing construction.

“There are some glimmers of business and utility growth, as in the opening of the West End Grille restaurant with 29 employees, (20 KW electric load), Divine Grace restaurant and MainStreet Café; the re-opening of the mushroom operation and the relocation of Classic T-Shirts from Tallahassee to Quincy with 25 jobs and a 20 kilowatt load. These businesses added jobs, injected capital into the local economy and contributed to additional sales for the electric utility,” Wade said.

New businesses that take advantage of the program, if adopted, could realize a savings of between $25,000 and $28,000 over a five-year period. An existing business could also take advantage of the program provided it added jobs and expanded electric utility usage.

The aim, Wade reminded commissioners, is to attract new businesses.

Still, some commissioners were skeptical and wanted to know more about the plan.

City Manager Jack McLean said the utility portion was part of a larger incentive plan to attract business and industry.

“We have parks and recreation, A and B schools, a world-class police department and fire department,” he said.

“It might be a start, but I’m not in agreement. I don’t want to give up; this (utilities) is our money maker,” said Commissioner Derrick Elias.

Commissioner Andy Gay suggested the city use the fact that Quincy has the second-lowest utility rate in the state as a selling point.

“I’d like to see this as a larger part of the incentive plan. We’re missing the bar if we don’t market the entire package,” he said.

Wade said the utility incentive was intended to be only one tool on the overall strategic plan.

A workshop to further discuss the plan has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Jan. 22 at city hall.