By Greg Ritchie
CROCKETT – Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation (CEIDC) held a board meeting Monday, Jan. 22 to discuss a tax abatement for Femme Tribe and Tours and Travel, LLC, to open a boutique hotel and Italian restaurant and pizzeria in downtown Crockett at 103 South Second Street and 112 East Goliad, the former Whitley’s Resale building.
At a later public hearing during a Crockett City council meeting to approve changes to the commercial zoning to permit such a business in that location, owner Shannon Parris told the council she was happy to have relocated to Crockett and looking forward to starting the business.
“Thank you so very much for accommodating me and also thank you to the rest of Crockett for stepping in and supporting me,” Parris said. “I’m a perfect stranger to the town but I have received only love and support, when I least expected it.”
Parris said she had worked in the oil and gas industry, holding citizenship in Italy and Trinidad, as well as in the U.S., and had trained with pizza master in New York to hone her skills on the Italian dish. Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce, in support of a chamber member and to promote tourism and business, spoke in support of the new business coming to the city.
Since the recent shakeup at CEIDC, the city council serves as the working board, and it was City Administrator John Angerstein who explained the new company did not seek incentives, but a staggered tax abatement agreement, over the next five years, based on investment and job creation. The agreement will still need to be negotiated with Parris, before going before the Crockett city council, Houston County Commissioners, with a 30 day application period, before coming to a public hearing, in order for the abatements to be approved.
Questioned by the board, Angerstein confirmed any agreement would not be transferable, in the case of the sale of the building, and would only apply to the listed applicant at that specific location. The board approved the motion.
The question of the Tech Center Atrium, formerly Onshore Building was tackled, with Angerstein pointing out the current full-time custodian would be retiring and the city would not need to hire another full-time person, since the building is only partly occupied. He suggested the city should see if a current employee would want to pick up extra hours, once a week, to keep the building clean and presentable to any potential renters, along with keeping the yard and others areas presentable. The board approved this, along with money to install nets and other deterrent devices to keep the large amount of birds from infesting the building.
Angerstein asked the board to consider an interim director or outside consultant to help CEIDC get the operation going, given the great amount of both due diligence and to work with several businesses who had already shown interest in relocating the city. Several options were discussed, with the board agreeing other cities have not stopped their efforts and Angerstein was already overworked with so many duties managing the city.
Several board members admitted Crockett is growing and there is a new spark around the city, which they did not want to see get lost.
“It is incumbent on us to promote economic development and when opportunities come available, to not miss those opportunities,” said Ernest Jackson. “I would hate to know we missed an opportunity due to our reluctance to act in a way that was in the best interest of our city’s economy.”
“This program is still going on, and it would be the height of irresponsibility not to put something in place,” remarked Crockett Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher. “Budgets, audits, fiscal year – these will all still have to be met. It’s unrealistic at this point to ask John (Angerstein) to do it, given there’s so much paperwork and so many conversations that need to be handled. You can only stand still and mark time for so long.”
“I don’t want to wear this man (Angerstein) out,” added Dennis Ivey. “We need to make sure we do what we need to do and stay on top of this, so we don’t lose a prospect.”
The board voted for Angerstein to come up with some options for the future of CEIDC leadership to be considered at a future meeting.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]