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Editorial: Not attacking FEDC, just asking for correct data
Guest ColumnOctober 17, 2012 | 1,886 views | 6 comments
By Jim Lawhon
Fred [Gonzales], I am the guy who stood up at the city council meeting on Sept. 29 and asked the questions that you seem to have interpreted as an attack on the Floresville Economic Development Corp. (Re: “Get the facts straight on FEDC,” Oct. 10).
You must not have heard the beginning of my time at the podium. I was not attacking anyone; there has been way too much of that lately. I said that I was referencing financial data from the State Comptroller’s site and that I would welcome someone providing me with the correct data if the State Comptroller had incorrect data.
As I am sure you know, there have been many ugly comments and accusations in our local political arena lately. I was attempting to take the discussion out of that mode and into a fact-based discussion. The mayor did clear up one bit of misinformation regarding the sale of property to pay the funds promised to the school.
In your letter to the Wilson County News, you confirmed that my information regarding the FEDC board being charged with a violation of the Texas Open Meeting act was correct and not misinformation. Thank you. Since you have stepped up and offered to provide factual data to quell the rumors, I will present you with the things I have heard so that you can clear them up for all of us.
First, my financial issue. If you need the comptroller website, I will provide it, but it has been provided in this blog at least once before. The comptroller site has records back to 1997, and that site is the basis for my question. From fiscal year 1997 through fiscal year 2011, the FEDC spent almost $600,000 more than it received in normal revenue. If it had not obtained the $1.5 million loan in 2008, it would have been out of money in early 2010. As has been pointed out before, for years 2007-11 the FEDC spent more than it received, not counting the loan in 2008. That is why I asked the question about the FEDC operating at a deficit for the past five years. If the comptroller data is incorrect, would you please make public financial records for the past five to 10 years so we can see the correct data and understand the discrepancy?
Looking at the Primary FEDC Objectives listed with each of the financial reports, the sports complex is in some years and not in others. Infrastructure projects are in some years and not others, and the same goes for tourism. The one thing that is consistent year to year is job creation and retention. I personally believe that is the one primary purpose of the FEDC. It is also the FEDC mission listed on the FEDC website.
With regard to issues like this, I have a personal bias. In my job I am regularly asked to justify my projects in terms of how the financial commitment serves the organization. With these things in mind, here are some other rumors you can clear up if you will.
•FEDC obtained a $1.5 million loan for the Rancho Grande Industrial Park. I have heard that the money was spent for other projects and not Rancho Grande. How much of that has been spent on Rancho Grande and how much do you still need to spend to complete your obligation for infrastructure and any other promised improvements at Rancho Grande?
•I have heard that the FEDC has not created that many jobs during its existence. Most of the jobs would have come without the FEDC because of Eagle Ford. Since 1997, based on the State Comptroller reports, the FEDC has spent a little over $5 million. How many net sustainable jobs have been created for the $5 million, not counting those that would have come anyway due to Eagle Ford?
•I have heard that members of the local real estate industry say that some businesses which bought land in Rancho Grande are now trying to sell the land because the park has not been developed as promised. They want to locate their businesses elsewhere.
•This is just a point of curiosity for me and not a rumor. It has been asked before but you said there were higher priority needs that delayed paying the school. I don’t think I have heard a discussion about economic development anywhere that did not say that one of the primary driving forces for economic development is a well-educated work force. I am curious as I think many are about what had a higher priority in benefiting this community than an investment in local education?
Fred, this is not an attack. This is an open invitation with my name on it to clear up anything that you believe is misinformation circulating in the community regarding what I said at the council meeting or from any other source. Please feel free to not only address what I present here, but any other misinformation you feel is circulating regarding the FEDC. We don’t have to agree with each other, but at least if we all know the facts, we can understand why those we oppose take the stand they do.
I would encourage you and the FEDC board to consider expanding the FEDC website and post your past and future financials, hopefully monthly. You can also post the minutes of your board meetings. You can use the site to communicate directly with the citizens without having to depend on the news media and those who attend your board meetings. I look forward to your responses.
Jim Lawhon is a resident of Floresville.
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