A Parker Town Council work session Feb. 4 on proposed amendments to the agreement between the Town of Parker and the La Paz Economic Development Corporation led to a discussion on whether the Town should offer direction to the EDC as to what sort of developments they want them to focus on.
Some of the council members said they wanted the EDC to focus on housing and retail to improve the town’s sales tax revenue. The two council members who spoke the most on this topic were Vice Mayor Jerry Hooper and Council Member Frank Savino.
“We should make our desires know to the EDC, and ask the EDC to address those,” Savino said.
EDC Chairman D.L. Wilson, who is also La Paz County District 1 Supervisor, said retail jobs do not pay as much as industrial jobs.
“With retail, you’re bringing in low-paying jobs,” he said. “We need to put efforts into industrial jobs that create disposable income to spend.”
Wilson acknowledged that Walmart, which is located on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, and on-line sales through companies like Amazon.com have hurt retail sales within the Town of Parker. He said recent court decisions have said mail-order companies and on-line sales sites must pay sales taxes to the states they sell in.
Council Member Randy Hartless asked if having more auto parts stores in town increased business or simply shifted business around. Wilson replied it was both, and used shoe stores as an example.
With more than one shoe store in town, Wilson said one would think it would split up the local business between the stores. However, he said studies showed it increased business overall. He said this is because, with a wider variety to choose from, more people are staying in town to buy shoes rather than going out of town.
Hartless said he was not against retail, but he was against tying retail to funding for the EDC.
Savino said the council needed to have the EDC work with them on their goals and needs.
Council Member Marion Shontz said the Town is looking at developing housing in Parker South, but added it shouldn’t be a condition of the Town giving money to the EDC.
“You really can’t tie this agreement to housing,” she said.
Mayor Dan Beaver said he didn’t want to hamstring this agreement by tying it to retail.
On another matter, Council Member Karen Bonds asked for an update on the hemp processing facility that was announced to the council in December. She said the Town is getting calls from people who are asking about job applications.
Wilson and EDC President Skip Becker asked that everyone be patient when it came to the hemp processing facility. They said it is still in the planning stages, and they will make all announcements when they are ready.
The hemp facility is estimated to cost $25 million, and will be located on the former Liquid Titan site in Parker South. It is estimated it will employ almost 100 people at an average wage of $66,000 per year. It will be built by the Calyxar Group, which is headed by John Knight.
The La Paz EDC was established to bring economic development to the county. Their biggest development to date has been the Rose Acre Farms egg farm south of Bouse.
The Town currently pays the EDC approximately $30,000 a year. In September 2019, Beaver said the Town couldn’t get a bigger bang for its buck than it gets from the EDC.