An incentive meant to entice small business owners into opening and expanding in Youngsville comes with unintended benefits for developers, school officials and service providers.
Since the start of 2018, Youngsville has waived commercial development permit fees to encourage growth and development in the city.
"We wanted to do whatever we could to encourage economic development and become easy to do business with," said Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter. "This is something that says 'We believe the citizens are better able to thrive without government oversight.'"
Toot Toot's Kitchen, a mom-and-pop restaurant that opened in August, serves as the perfect example of when the incentive works for Youngsville.
After hearing about the waived permit fees during the Youngsville Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet last year, Ashley Higginbotham and her husband made the decision to open their restaurant in Youngsville.
"That kind of sparked it for us," Higginbotham said. "Being a first-time small-business owner, it really helped us financially not having to pay those permit fees. You have so many other expenses and unexpected things that come up, so to not have to worry about the permit fees was huge for us."
Other small business owners such as Tony Robison, who expects to open Bourree Restaurant in a few weeks, said the incentive had no effect on their decisions to open in Youngsville because their landlords handle permitting.
The typical cost for a commercial permit in Youngsville varies depending on the size of the building, construction plans and features of the space. Permitting fees can range from several hundreds of dollars to several thousands of dollars.
The fee would be $2,750 for a 1,200-square-foot business with basics such as air conditioning, electricity and plumbing. Those fees normally go into the city's general fund to offset costs of reviewing construction plans and inspecting the businesses prior to their opening.
"We're still paying for these things from the city's general fund," Ritter said. "The idea is that the sales tax generated by these businesses just naturally offsets the expenses we have from losing those fees."
But not every commercial permit issued will generate sales tax. About half of the commercial permits issued from January 2018 through last week haven't directly generated sales tax revenue for the city.
That's because sales tax isn't collected at service-oriented businesses such as daycares and dental offices or at public entities such as schools or a fire station.
"That may be a fair catch," Ritter said. "Ernest Gallet's playground should not be exempt from permitting fees. I think we need to tighten things up and clarify things."
The Youngsville City Council unanimously passed a resolution to waive commercial permit fees in October 2017.
The council unanimously agreed to renew the resolution in January, but they opted to add that fees would be waived "for those businesses that will bring in sales tax dollars to the city equal to or greater than the cost of the permitting fees."
Since the new resolution was adopted, permit fees were waived for a press box at a school, an ambulance station and a dentist office.
Ritter said the city could do a better job of deciding which commercial permit fees are waived, but he thinks the incentive has done more to help Youngsville than to hurt it.
"It's hard to know if there's been a direct correlation or return on the investment," Ritter said. "We haven't done an analysis to see if it's helped businesses come our way or if we're just leaving money on the table."
Darren Reavis, who opened Louisiana Gymnastics Club with his wife in 2015, said the incentive didn't help him when opening his business but it could be of benefit to him in the coming months as he considers moving into a new space.
With or without the incentive, he plans to stay in Youngsville. He originally tried to open his business in Lafayette, but the experience left him frustrated.
"It kind of feels like Youngsville cares about you more," Reavis said. "We had to go through a lot of processes and red tape with Lafayette, and the project didn't happen. When I came to Youngsville, it was quick and easy to find someone to talk to. They're right there when you want to talk to them."
Higginbotham agreed, saying it's not so much the incentive that enticed her to open Toot Toot's Kitchen in Youngsville as it was the support from the city's leaders.
"The support is tangible here," she said. "The support from the city, the mayor, the council, the chief of police, the fire chief, the other business owners, the citizens, everybody — everybody, everybody, everybody wants to see you succeed. Youngsville has the mindset of 'I want you to succeed so I can succeed because your success is our success.'"
Who has benefited?
- Agave: 3,000-square-foot awning
- Louis Anzalone commercial building
- Lux Spa
- Youngsville Fire Station
- Glenn Lege office expansion
- Nest Home Interiors build out
- Meadow Bend Shopping Center
- Hometown Lenders build out
- Natural Path Addition build out
- Little Steps Day Care
- Elite Dance Force build out
- Physiofit Physical Therapy build out
- Smoothie King
- Youngsville Dental
- Vision Clinic
- Office Cornay Plaza build out
- Dollar General
- Sun Massage build out
- Premier Cleaners build out
- Principals List
- Mill Commons II
- Salon De Chien
- Ernest Gallet Elementary playground/pavilion
- Green T Lindon Elementary playground/pavilion
- Chesterton’s Fine Cigars build out
- Cell tower upgrades
- Bourree Restaurant build out
- Faucheux Gas Station
- Acadiana Barber Company build out
- Metairie Centre build out Suite 104 (no business name yet)
- Serenity Spa new building
- Metairie Centre build out Suite 100 (no business name yet)
- Metairie Centre build out Suite 105 (no business name yet)
- Ascension Episcopal School two-story press box
- Acadian Ambulance build out
- Harrison Paint Benjamin Moore build out
- LA Vape Shop build out
- Patterson Dental build out
- Louisiana Valve Source commercial addition
- Watch Me Whip build out
- POUR Restaurant and Bar
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