June 14--The ordinance governing the use of the city of Pueblo's half-cent sales tax for job creation states that service industry jobs qualify, Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce Director Rod Slyhoff said Friday.
Ordinance 14-4-85 defines a primary job as a "full-time position in private sector employment by manufacturing, business, commercial or service industries" that bring outside money into Pueblo, Slyhoff said.
Nationally, service industries account for 70 percent of all jobs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The subcategories include tourism, hotel, restaurant and other hospitality jobs and also employment in utilities, transportation, information, finance and insurance, real estate, management and health care.
Local service sector jobs previously aided by the half-cent fund include call centers and the former Qual-Med, Slyhoff said.
In each instance, the companies bring outside revenue into Pueblo and employ local workers in exchange for providing services rather than manufacturing products, he said.
Others aided by the fund include the Professional Bull Riders and the Doss aviation flight school. PBR and an AT&T call center located their buildings at the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo.
Slyhoff's comments follow a week in which some members of Pueblo City Council reiterated their belief that the Riverwalk expansion does not qualify as a generator of primary jobs. Citing that position, they opposed a loan from the half-cent fund to aid the project.
Pueblo City Councilman Steve Nawrocki on Friday questioned the opponents' claims, noting that earlier this year the council was unanimous in supporting the Riverwalk loan as part of a recruitment effort for an unspecified employer.
"The way I see it, council has already determined (the Riverwalk expansion) is connected to creating primary jobs. And that prospect is still interested," Nawrocki said. The Pueblo Economic Development Corp. does not release detailed information about prospects until a tentative jobs deal is reached.
Meanwhile, Slyhoff and other Riverwalk planners say they are unaware of any pledge of using private investment to fund the projects the loan would finance, which is another recent claim to surface. The money was always to come from the state sales tax pledged to the project, they said.
Pueblo isn't alone in recognizing tourism jobs as primary jobs, Slyhoff said.
In establishing and supporting the state Regional Tourism Act grants that will help fund the Riverwalk expansion, the state Legislature, along with Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Gov. Bill Ritter, recognized "tourism as primary jobs and a large economic driver of the economy," he said.
A 2011 economic study on the Riverwalk expansion projected the $116 million in private and public projects set to be built over the next 25 years will eventually add 1,113 permanent local jobs
and increase out-of-state visitation by 321,000 people per year and instate visitation by 559,000 per year.
The public additions will included an expanded exhibition hall to attract larger convention and sporting events and aid the creation of PBR University bull riding training school; an extension of upgrading of the river channel; and the construction of a major swimming center and indoor water park.
Slyhoff on Friday cited his own working definition of primary jobs: "To me, primary jobs bring wealth to the community. They bring dollars generated outside of our local economy." In tourism, "the product we provide is family fun, family vacations and family activities. People come here with money ... and they leave that money in the community," he said.
Pueblo City Council Member Ami Nawrocki, among those who say the expansion doesn't qualify for a loan, issued a statement Friday saying that other issues also led her and fellow council members to vote against using the half-cent fund to aid the project.
The ordinance defining primary jobs: "Primary job means a full-time position in private sector employment by manufacturing, business, commercial or service industries producing, assembling or distributing products or providing services primarily or ultimately for sale, consumption or use outside of the city and county."