Carl Griffith

David Ball – For The Record

The city of Orange may get a boost in economic development with some help from some neighbors.

The firm of Griffith, Mosely, Johnson & Associates, Inc. of Port Arthur made a presentation to a joint meeting of the Orange City Council and the Orange Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors on the morning of August 11. The presentation concerned professional consulting services to assist the city of Orange in its economic development efforts, particularly as it relates to pursuit of industrial development in the city and its extraterritorial jurisdiction in the city’s effort to attract retail and commercial development.

Those attending the meeting were Carl Griffith, president and CEO and former Jefferson County Judge and sheriff; Jeff Moseley, executive vice president and former Denton County Judge and president of the Greater Houston Partnership; John Johnson, vice present and general counsel and Doneane Beckom, criminal justice consultant and attorney.

Johnson gave an overview of the firm to the council and the services they offer.

He said the firm is about providing strategic support to business, industry and government in a range of practice areas supported by a team of seasoned professionals with a combined 335 years of experience.

Griffith Moseley Johnson & Associates, Inc. (formerly Carl R. Griffith & Associates, Inc.) provides strategic support to business, industry and government in a range of practice areas, including site selection and economic development, government affairs, environmental and regulatory affairs, business development, criminal justice, emergency management, grant management and homeland security policy development.

Johnson rhetorically asked where are we in Orange, Texas and what resources do we have?

He spoke of the vast real estate available and how GMJ also assists the existing business community.

He concluded by saying the firm responds to inquiries quickly and they envision being part of a team.

Griffith said he already feels as part of the team.

“We spend so much time with heavy industry because there would be no community here without heavy industry,” he said.

Griffith said GMJ views things as a region.

One of the most underdeveloped channels is in Orange County and deepening the channel will assist the region as the most strategic position on the Gulf Coast.

“It will be a game changer for the whole region and Orange County is poised to take advantage,” he said.

In addition to the channel, Orange County also has Interstate 10 to develop.

“We want to identify properties that are most likely to be utilized,” he said.

Councilman Larry Spears Jr. asked Griffith will a certain amount of jobs be promised to Orange residents. Griffith said he doesn’t think the city wants to force a business to make such a promise but they could be incentivized to do so.

“You (the city) will want to know the answers before they ask the questions. Before the site selector asks,” Griffith said.

Councilman Patrick Pullen asked if any present businesses were interested in Orange. Griffith said corporations are constantly looking for other sites.

Mayor Jimmy Sims said a friend of him works on Chemical Row and told him companies with either pick a location on Chemical Row or another location.

“If you sit around, you’ll lose out. If you’re aggressive you’ll get it. (Dr.) Shawn (Oubre, city manager) called Griffith and got the plant manager right in front of us,” Sims said.

Pullen said that’s one of the issues he campaigned on was going out and finding the businesses.

Sims said the city often meets with companies and they’re here to support them.

“Our strength is in our numbers regionally; we’re not competing with each other,” Griffith said.

Councilman Dr. Wayne Guidry asked Griffith what his vision is for Orange in five years. He said it’s not unreasonable to increase the tax base by 50 percent.

Councilwoman Essie Bellfield said she has been knowing Griffith for more than 20 years and he will do what is possible to make Orange grow.

Griffith said whatever incentives the city receives should go back into advertising in the community.

“I have a passion to see Orange County grow,” Griffith said.

In other council business, a series of resolutions related to the acknowledgement of receiving tax rates was approved.

The 2015 Effective Tax Rate is .71342 per $100 of value

The 2015 Rollback Tax Rate is .75837 per $100 of value

2015 Debt Rate is .11588 per $100 of value

During Citizens Comments, Joe Parkhurst, president of the Orange County Emergency Services District #3 in Little Cypress, asked the city not to annex the International Paper mill on N. Highway 87.

He said IP is the largest tax contributor to OCESD #3 and they would lose 50 percent of their income if annexed.

He added closing the fire station would affect 5,000 to 6,000 residents in that area. Most of their calls are EMT calls too.

The department has certified part-time professional firefighters on staff in addition to volunteers that way there will always be a trained staff member at the station.

“Annexation will crush us. The people won’t have the services and people may die. Our volunteers are our supplement; we need a core group there,” Parkhurst said. “I ask you to reconsider and work it out the way it is now.”

He said the OCESD #3 would lose $.150 of sales tax and $250,000 to $300,000 a year.

Afterward, the council approved a series of ordinances and resolutions related to International Paper.

The final reading of an ordinance annexed a 30-foot private road right of way owned by the company and also adopting a service plan for the annexed territory.

The first readings of the resolutions adopted an economic development program for IP to stimulate business and commercial activity in Orange County.

Closely related was the first reading of an ordinance to execute an economic development program agreement between the city and IP to promote economic development  and commercial activity within the city.

City Attorney Andrew Culpepper said the first ordinance establishes the program and the second ordinance executes the program.

Lastly, the city entered into an agreement with Schaumburg & Polk, Inc. for $131,250 for professional engineering services for the design of a proposed new groundwater production plant improvements.

Jim Wolf, public works director, said this project will be tremendous for the city of Orange by adding a new water well at the plant site.

The water well will be placed on the west side of Adams Bayou, north of Interstate 10 near Womack Road.

Bids will be received in May and accommodate future growth in the city.