Sulphur Mayor Chris Duncan. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Sunday, April 21, 2013 11:37 AM
SULPHUR — The city issued more occupational licenses last year than it had over a 10-year period, even with a drop in the number of licenses issued to new businesses, according to a city official.
In 2012, the city issued 1,345 licenses to businesses, 189 of them new, Patti Mallet, the city’s license coordinator, said.
The city averaged about 200 new businesses from 2003 to 2009; 2006 saw the most new businesses in the 10-year period with 229, which Mallett attributes to new construction after Hurricane Rita.
She said the numbers for 2012 show that the economy is beginning to recover and more people are starting new businesses in Sulphur. The number of new businesses jumped from 153 in 2011, the lowest in a decade, to 189 in 2012.
Mallett said medical-type businesses — like clinics and urgent care centers — are the most popular types of businesses “popping up” in the city. She also said restaurants; dance studios and exercise centers; and retail shops have located in Sulphur.
About 70 percent of businesses opened in the city are opened by Sulphur residents, she said.
Mayor Chris Duncan said the biggest obstacle to enticing businesses, particularly chains, is the area’s population size.
“We try to get businesses to come here all the time ... . They don’t think we have the population for the big chains, and that’s what they’re looking at,” he said. “But not only do we have the 20,000 people in Sulphur, we have the people around the Houston River area, Carlyss, Westlake, DeQuincy, Hackberry, Vinton and DeQuincy.”
Duncan said the big chains have started expressing interest in west Calcasieu because of its growth and potential.
Another challenge, for both the city and the West Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce: getting residents to shop locally.
“We have to have more of a variety in the community to keep people shopping here,” Duncan said. The WCCC is working to highlight local businesses, he said.
Dianne Dronet, WCCC executive director, said the opening of the West Cal Business Center has helped keep shoppers in Sulphur.
“Now west Calcasieu residents can do their business here,” she said. “They can pay their taxes and they can do their business with the Clerk of Court’s Office right here in Sulphur.”
Dronet said the city is beginning to see more variety among the stores, which are staying open later. WCCC advertises and promotes west Calcasieu shops daily on its Facebook page.
Keith Berry, the city’s chief inspector, said the area of the city that has seen the most growth is from Beglis Parkway east, around the Cities Service Highway area.
Duncan said the city expects to see continuous growth and a “big boom” with industries expansion projects.
He said the city has become aggressive and has annexed several pieces of property in the Cities Service Highway area, which he said will be “a big booming area for retail.”
“If, and only if, all the projects dealing with the land we have annexed so far go through, then there will be about $6 million worth of commercial buildings in that area,” he said
If other projects that include annexed land on the south frontage road come to fruition, $20 million more in commercial buildings would be added to the area, Duncan said.
“All the pockets of land that are in our community are being bought for development now,” he said. “They’re building on the outskirts of the city and requesting annexation for water and sewer purposes.”
The city is also updating infrastructure to handle growth, improving water and sewer lines and pushing for more lanes on La. 27, Duncan said.
He said officials are evaluating all major arteries in the city.
New businesses would also bring new money to the city through sales tax revenue.
Kevin Alley, the city’s finance director, said Sulphur saw a nearly $570,000 increase in sales tax revenue from 2011 to 2012. He said the 2013 fiscal year — July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013 — has “definitely seen an increase over prior numbers.”
Alley said the city estimates that from July 1, 2012, to Feb. 28, 2013, it has taken in more than $9 million in sales tax revenue.
“Basically, we estimate that it takes a month for the vendor to get their sales tax to the School Board and the School Board gets it to us,” he said.
“We are definitely at an increase over prior numbers. However, it gets kind of tricky to predict year over year with Easter because we always have a big spike in the month that Easter falls in since it floats around.”
The city’s sales tax revenue dropped in 2010, the same year the number of business licenses decreased, from nearly $13.6 million in 2009 to $11.8 million a year later.
“I think that was typical for all of Southwest Louisiana,” Alley said. “Everyone went through the same cycle we went through with a downturn in the economy.”
Posted By: mario dominguez On: 4/23/2013
Title: City Must Develop Infrastructure
All of this activity will need much improvement in Sulphurs roads, bridges, streets and community recreational areas. Sulphur must address this in order to give it a NEW look.