City officials discuss impact of business closures

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By Keator Poleman, Times intern

As businesses are opening and closing around the City, officials discuss the impact it will have on the tax revenue. Jerry McWherter, administrator of the City of Natchitoches Tax Commission, said he has not seen much variation in the sales tax, calling it “pretty static.” With the closing of fast food restaurants, such as Hardees and Chicken Express, McWherter said, “When one closes, another seems to open.”

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Closures of the so-called “big box” stores, such as Fred’s and Rite Aid, have made an impact on the tax base, he said. Speaking of a major home décor store coming to the City, McWherter said it would bring in a large tax base.

However, he asks what the cost would be for the mom and pop stores.“Business closures and openings do have an effect on the tax collections, but this town is made up of small entrepreneurs with specialty products not found at the ‘big box’ stores,” he said.

The administrator said there is only so much money the public has to spend. He said consumers need to spend money at the businesses or they will close. Mayor Lee Posey said sales taxes are higher than they were last year. He said when one business closes around the City, another will take its place. The mayor said many of the businesses in Natchitoches that closed are also closing around the country. With Hobby Lobby coming to the City, Posey said it will be a “huge benefit” to the economy. As there are no other stores like it, Posey said Hobby Lobby will not be in competition with other businesses in Natchitoches.

Anytime a business closes, it is a loss of tax revenue, Executive Director of the Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau Arlene Gould said.  She said a business closing not only means a loss of revenue for the owner, but to the City as well.

Some of the other closures around town include: Payless, Maurice’s, Cane River Bar and Grill and Dickey’s BBQ. Openings include: Steak ‘N Shake, Claire’s and Hobby Lobby.