Baker trying new economic development push

City officials are working on a plan to encourage business growth to possibly increase sales tax revenues for city government and the school system.

Mayor Harold Rideau and his administrative assistant, Darnell Waites, last week released an outline of steps they said the city should take to assist existing businesses and bring in new ones.

Although Baker offers a full array of services to residents and businesses, including fire and police protection and utilities, those services are in jeopardy because of declining or nearly flat sales tax revenues in recent years.

The city is expected to make it through the fiscal year that began July 1 by again dipping into reserve funds accumulated several years ago, but the reserves will be nearly depleted next year without additional revenue.

Waites said the plan, which is still under development, includes input from existing businesses.

The city plans to partner with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southern University to provide essential information and support to help businesses reach their full potential, Waites said.

The city also wants to rebuild the Baker Chamber of Commerce’s membership base and to re-establish communications among the chamber, city officials and business owners, he said.

Waites said the city also wants to create an economic development committee to welcome new businesses and give ideas and recommendations for future growth.

The plan includes developing a marketing plan to encourage Baker residents to “Shop Baker First.”

Rideau said Jean Byers, who plans events for the city, is working on an Aug. 29 promotion involving businesses along Main Street, or La. 19, in Baker.

“She’s organizing it now,” the mayor said.

The city also plans a series of breakfast meetings with business and community leaders, beginning Sept. 5.

Other items in the proposed plan include:

Expanding the vision of Team City, a committee of chamber and city officials, to include more residents and community involvement.

Creating a business magazine to market the chamber and local businesses.

Starting social media pages for the city. (Facebook, Twitter)

Creating a welcome packet for all new residents.

Rideau said the city has some funds from its share of a parish hotel-motel tax it can use for economic development purposes.