Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Farmington Is the New Fayetteville

Joe Bailey, Farmington Chamber of Commerce president, brags about one of the town’s most recent new businesses, Tractor Supply Company, stolen by Farmington and taking jobs from Fayetteville. Bailey says Farmington is business friendly and has its advantages as a place to do business, citing the recent addition of a Collier’s Drug and an O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store. "As time goes by, I’d like to see us get something like a Smokey Bones or O’Charleys," Bailey said, referring to two restaurants near the Northwest Arkansas Mall that went belly-up in Fayetteville. "We’re only on the ground floor when it comes to potential," he boasted in true Chamber lingo and drooling over those $2.63-an-hour new jobs as food servers.

All of these job creation efforts and attempts to grow the tax base in Farmington are in danger, because the city government is displaying an "unfriendly attitude" and getting a "reputation as unfriendly to business."

City Administrator Melissa McCarville says fees on business have not been increased since 1995, and she advocates dramatic hikes in charges to businesses. The Farmington City Council is considering raising the cost of a new business license by more than 100% and the cost of renewal by 500%.

More telling is the planned crackdown on individual entrepreneurs. Three years ago, Farmington started requiring permits for garage sales, and now they want to slap on a $10 permit fee. Code Enforcement Officer Dan Ledbetter says leftover garage sale signs are a major problem for the city.
Instead of just giving the suspects a warning, he says, "If they leave their sign up, I think we ought to automatically fine them." City Attorney Steve Tenant agrees. "There are umpteen ways you can add to enforce this," Tenant said. "You can put all kinds of provisions on it if you want to."

Next thing you know, the Cardinal Drive-In will be moving to Fayetteville's much more "business friendly" atmosphere. Bill Ramsey and Steve Rust are probably working up an "incentive" package right now and planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony to take credit for those new jobs.

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