Businesses Gone, Tax Base Damaged by Storms

HIGHLAND, AR (KAIT) -- Thousands in Region 8 are still recovering after their towns were damaged in the February 5th tornado.  One town that is going to have a harder time than others is Highland because in addition to homes being damaged multiple businesses are now gone.  This is taking jobs and the tax base out of the community.

"It pretty well wiped out the business section of Highland so we're looking for ideas and maybe some new people coming back in to help out with people who don't want to move back," said business owner David Harris.

But with all these businesses out of business, at least temporarily, what impact is that having on the city?

Mayor Jerome Norwood told Region 8 News the impact will be a big one.

"We have no way of knowing.  We've lost a total of 29 businesses totally lost and 43 all together lost in damages.  We don't know what the sales tax impact will be," said Norwood.

Norwood said they expect to get revenue from each of the businesses every month and with those gone that money won't be coming in.  The projected revenue for this year from sales tax was just under $300,000 and with half of those sales tax revenue producing businesses gone that number will be cut in half.

"The average we received last year was about $24,000 a month and these businesses are where it came in from.  Now 29 of them are gone and that's going to be be sales tax lost on all of those," said Norwood.

Norwood said they won't know what the sales tax numbers are from February until April.

It's not just the city that is losing money.  With no place to go to work about fifty or sixty employees are with out jobs.

"We have no way to make up for it.  The only way we were lucky is that we had a cash balance going in the first of the year and we will be able to work on that cash balance because the income we projected will be less," said Norwood.

Arkansas State University, through the Small Business Development Center, has been among those agencies that are trying to help people in the aftermath of the tornados that raked Arkansas on February 5th.  The center is working to try to help some of the businesses impacted by the storm.