Generating public support for bond referenda is critical when local governments are seeking to fund infrastructure improvements. Recently, the City of Cherryville needed to illustrate the benefits of such investments ahead of the November 2020 election where the ballot would feature three bond issues totaling $8.7 million. The proposed projects included replacing severely corroded, 100-year old water mains, updating the failing sewer system and repairing and replacing dilapidated downtown streets and sidewalks. In their current state, the water mains often deliver muddy water throughout the city and are not adequate for fire protection systems in the downtown area. The sewer system is prone to backups and blockages, which has caused water damage for property owners. There is also concern that the condition of some of the downtown streets and sidewalks could keep businesses and visitors away from the area.
Data Provides a Look into the Future
City officials wanted to understand the economic impact of the bond referendum if the projects were implemented and sought Centralina’s assistance in analyzing relevant data. Mike Manis, Centralina Community Economic Development Director, examined economic and workforce trends using JobsEQ, a software program that provides employment, wage and demographic data at the zip code level. He also used the Emsi economic modeling tool to estimate the returns on both the city’s investment in the bond projects and an additional $9.5 million private investment in renovations and development in the business district.
Despite being located within a single zip code, Cherryville’s small size presented some challenges for the software programs. Mr. Manis was able to extract data from other sources, however, to produce a detailed analysis of the economic impact the bond projects would have on the city. He then provided officials with a two-part report of his findings. The first part was a full economic assessment comparing the city’s demographics to regional and state benchmarks. The second part was a three-year jobs and economic impact scenario that estimated changes in jobs, wages and sales or output resulting from the projects, either directly or indirectly. Some of the most notable projections in the report were:
- The creation of 126 new jobs
- A gain of $18 million of direct sales, service and payroll and $7.2 million of economic impact from indirect and induced new funds, totaling $25.2 million over three years
- A net increase of $180,000 in annual tax revenue at the end of those initial three years
These numbers indicated the projects would have a substantial impact on the city. “Cherryville will economically benefit from the bond projects,” noted Mayor H.L. Beam. The city shared the results of the analysis in a press release issued in advance of the election. Public support for the referendum was evident on November 3rd when voters approved all three bonds.
Estimating the Value of Public Investments
In the case of Cherryville, data and modeling allowed the city to forecast the potential economic benefit of initiatives designed to upgrade aging infrastructure, revitalize its downtown and improve overall quality of life. This information from this forecast helped voters understand the positive impact that the bonds could have, like the creation of new jobs, resulting in increased public support for this initiative and in turn, approved bonds. Once the bond projects are completed, citizens will experience increased performance and efficiency in the water and sewer systems while enjoying new sidewalks, pavers and other beautification elements added to the downtown area.
Interested in learning how economic data could help your local government visualize the value and impacts of improvement projects you are considering? Contact Mike Manis at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Written by: Kelly Weston