But the decision did not come without reservations and the vote was not unanimous. One board member, Duwayne Dumas, voted against the motion to join the organization after questioning what the BDA would get out of its $10,000 annual membership fee.
“I think the BDA can benefit from a relationship with a big brother,” said authority Executive Director Joe B. Montez.
He reminded the board that they had heard CCREDC Director Roland Mowers explain how he thought membership could help the BDA.
However, Montez did not deny that Beeville had found itself on the short end of agreements with that same big brother in the past.
Montez remembered that officials in Corpus Christi offered no support for Beeville when the federal government decided to close NAS Chase Field in the early 1990s.
However, Montez said economic development officials in the Coastal Bend apparently have learned the importance of working on a regional basis when it comes to developing the economy.
Montez said the goal of the regional organization is to create 7,000 new jobs and he believed some of those jobs could end up in Bee County.
The BDA director reminded board members that Nueces County Judge Lloyd Neal had helped to steer two sizable grants to the authority to help pay for improvements to the Chase Field Industrial and Airport Complex.
Montez said Mowers had suggested that the BDA try membership in the organization for one year and then drop out if board members felt they had not gotten anything from the investment.
“I think it’s worth it to try it for a year,” BDA Board President Laura Fischer said.
“I have some real concerns with it,” Dumas said. He mentioned that Bee County had some bad experiences working with Corpus Christi in the past.
Dumas also questioned the fact that some of the other public entities in the Coastal Bend were not joining the corporation.
However, Montez said he already had been involved in some meetings with the organization and he had a positive feeling about the current relationship.
“I know it hasn’t happened in the past,” Montez admitted concerning attempts to work with Corpus Christi. “But if we become a member, then we have a seat in the Regional Opportunities Council.”
Montez said the group would meet several times a year to discuss economic development possibilities.
The director said the CCREDC is interested in promoting the Coastal Bend’s health care facilities and that could benefit the hospital here.
“Do we go down this again? Fischer asked. “I kind of feel like we need to. Joe’s been going down there and he feels it’s helping.”
“Now they could be fooling him,” Fischer said. “Is it easy to fool Joe Montez? I don’t think so.”
“We have different folks who realize that you’ve got to have economic development on a regional basis,” Montez said. He said Corpus Christi “has tried to do it alone and it hasn’t worked.”
Board member Luis Alaniz said he would be willing to try membership for a year to see if it works.
“I wouldn’t want to do it for more than a year,” Fischer said. Montez had said earlier that the organization had invited the BDA to stay with the organization for five years.
Board member Bill Carl expressed his support for joining the organization and minutes later made a motion to sign on for the yearlong membership. Alaniz seconded the motion. Those voting for it included Fischer, Elias Chapa, John Brockman, Tom Baynum and Jimbo Martinez.
Earlier in the meeting, board members heard an investment report from Jim Eller, senior vice president and investment officer with Wachovia Securities, who said the BDA’s investments had seen a positive return of 4.59 percent at a time when the stock market was losing money.
“It’s a very respectable number,” Eller said. He went on to say that Wells Fargo, the bank that recently purchased Wachovia, had been deemed one of the top 10 safest banks in the world in a recent report.
Montez said he believes the safest investments right now are in U.S. Treasury bonds but he realized that some of those might not be protected by the federal government in the future. He asked Eller to keep him informed of bond developments so that the BDA can move its investments to keep the principal safe.
Fischer said the BDA needs to maintain a 4-5 percent return on its investments to maintain enough working capital.
“Is there anything that can be done?” she asked.
“Not right now,” Eller said. But he pointed out that rates will eventually have to increase again. He said the current stimulus package and other deficit spending will drive rates back up again.
“We’re going to have to pay for this,” Eller said. “Rates are going to have to start creeping back up. We can’t keep pumping the Fed to print more money without creating inflation.”
Board members also voted to authorize Montez to execute a capital contribution/escrow agreement between the BDA and the Dan A. Hughes Management, L.L.C. for airport infrastructure improvements.
The Hughes company has been given permission to build a hangar for its aircraft near the control tower at Chase Field and it is contributing $1.25 million for runway lighting and other improvements.
Montez said the BDA will incur immediate engineering expenses for the lighting project and the authority will need the escrow account to receive reimbursement payments.
“We really don’t have that $1.2 million,” Montez said. “But we’re going to be made whole.”