Project Dam incentivizes Buc-ee’s to aid in additional economic development growth

By Malcolm Butler

Approximately 82 acres of land has been purchased on the north side of I-20 on Tarbutton Road across from Ruston Junior High School.

The first Buc-ee’s ever built in the state of Louisiana will occupy approximately 27 acres of that footprint as a travel center between 53,000 and 74,000 square feet will be constructed over the next two years.

For reference, the Buc-ee’s in Terrell, Texas, is 53,000 square feet.

As part of the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) between the City of Ruston and Buc-ees, an economic development district package called “Project Dam” is included, thus incentivizing the corporation to help recruit additional businesses to that area.

“We have two economic development districts in the city right now,” said Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker. “The first is the shopping center with Hobby Lobby and all of those. They get the full 1 percent up to a certain count. The other is the hotel-restaurant tax which Buc-ee’s will not have because they don’t have seats, so they aren’t considered a restaurant.”

It’s an additional 2 percent sales tax that can be charged within the 82 acre-footprint that will go to Buc-ee’s and is part of the 5.75 percent sales tax exemption for 20 years in the CEA. It’s a major component to making the numbers work for both sides.

“If a hotel goes out there, Buc-ee’s will get the (additional) 2 percent sales tax on it,” said Walker. “If a restaurant goes out there, they will. So, this 2 percent goes directly to Buc-ee’s and is based on any (business) that goes out there.

“What Buc-ee’s did was so helpful for us. They took the economic development district money and gave us back our tax incremental district money. We get that from day No. 1.”

The additional businesses that ultimately are built within the 82-acre footprint will not benefit from the same sales tax breaks that Buc-ee’s will receive for its first two decades.

Walker said an economic development study would be done soon to better project the financial impact.

“We have heard $10M a month in sales,” said Walker. “Then we heard $4M on the inside and $4M on the outside. So, we really don’t know. But it’s going to be huge for us.”

In addition to the 2.75 percent sales tax exemption from the City, Buc-ee’s was also incentivized by locking in utility rates of 4.75 cents per kWh as well as sewer and water rates. The city also surrendered their portion of the property tax for the travel center only.

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