GOSHEN COUNTY – “It is so important that we keep helping ourselves and keep those dollars in our community,” Ashley Harpstreith, CEO and Executive Director of Goshen County Economic Development Corporation, said at a Partnership Breakfast on Friday at 307 Sports Bar & Grill in Torrington.
“It really positions us well for different types of projects.”
Harpstreith refers to the GCEDC ¼-cent sales tax – funds collected and distributed to help develop infrastructure to attract new industry, support the expansion of local business and job creation, and enhance communities in Goshen County, according to official GCEDC documents.
“With economic development assistance, local government can apply for matching funds to access larger state and federal grants for infrastructure necessary to position communities for economic growth,” a flyer supporting the tax reads.
In Lingle and Fort Laramie specifically, more than $100,000 in ¼-cent sales tax funds have been used through the GCEDC Progress Program, which distributes monies through a quarterly application-and-review process, to support infrastructure upgrades, community enhancement and capital matching.
Major projects in the two municipalities include electrical substation expansion work in Lingle, along with funds for the proposed new community center, and sewer line replacement and a newly renovated community center in Fort Laramie.
For infrastructure, the Town of Lingle has received two separate $20,000 grants, one in 2014 and another in 2017; GCEDC also gave the Town of Fort Laramie funds in the amount of $33,775 ($13,775 in 2016, and $20,000 in 2017) for infrastructure upgrades.
GCEDC-supported community enhancement projects in each town include $960 to the Western Plains Historical Association in 2017, and several grants to the Fort Laramie Rendezvous Association, Greater Fort Laramie Community Development Association, and Town of Fort Laramie since 2011, for a total of $16,535.
GCEDC has also provided capital matching funds to Ellis’ Harvest Home (2011), Essence Salon (2014) and Anderson Carpet (2016) in Lingle in the amount of $13,928.
In all, Lingle has benefited from around $55,000 in GCEDC grants, and Fort Laramie, more than $50,000.
“Collecting ¼-cent sales tax is a reasonable and fair way to offer immense benefit to all the citizens of Goshen County,” Fort Laramie Mayor Joyce Evans said. “It has always been a tax that is evenly distributed among our citizens, and it utilizes the purchases made by visitors as well as residents. This is nothing new, and will not increase our taxes in any way. The Town of Fort Laramie has been able to grow and improve itself because of the sales tax and the efforts of the Goshen County Economic Development Board.
“We have purchased the Community Center, which was improved through the use of sales tax monies granted by GCEDC, to use as our town offices,” she continued. “We have replaced a significant amount of water and sewer lines, and we have improved our infrastructure. None of this would have been possible without the 1/4-cent sales tax. We can only hope the citizens of Goshen County will again approve this tax they have already been paying for the benefit of the entire county.”
The ¼-cent sales tax is a continuation – not a new tax – and was originally adopted by voters in Goshen County in 2006, following legislation in 2004 that enabled an optional sales tax for economic development.
Throughout Goshen County, the GCEDC Progress Program has awarded nearly 170 businesses and organizations grants totaling more than $700,000. GCEDC keeps a separate accounting of all sales tax funds. To date, the organization has collected $3.7 million in sales tax, which has been leveraged with an additional $2.3 million in grants, bringing $6 million in equity to Goshen County.
“This is the only lever in the state that we are locally able to help ourselves – it’s so important,” Harpstreith said at the breakfast. “It’s imperative for us to keep doing things the way we’re doing it.”
Keep an eye out for additional articles in the Telegram detailing the benefits of ¼-cent sales tax dollars in other communities in