A reader in today’s Hubbub refers to the city of Crestview’s attempts to attract businesses with incentives as a “sweetheart deal.” However, this carries an unnecessarily negative connotation because it happens all the time.
Part of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council’s job is to explain the benefits of locating businesses here and informing industries of incentives that might sweeten the deal.
County tax exemptions for property improvements, limited tax refunds per job created and capital loan options for manufacturers are among such incentives.
Reporter Brian Hughes and I recently sat down with Kay Rasmussen, the EDC’s interim president, who explained the organization’s drive to bring businesses that complement tent pole industries to the county — and to attract new industries when one tent pole needs replacing.
Can big businesses afford to move here without perks? Many people believe they can. However, as the Supreme Court taught us in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: corporations are people. And like people, they shop around for good deals, too.
Other counties and states use incentives in a virtual bidding war for businesses that will enhance the area’s prestige and stimulate the local economy. It’s legal — and in the EDC’s case, it benefits the greater good, putting more Okaloosans to work.
Our reader says, “Whatever the policy is needs to be even and fair across the board.” It typically is, since all areas bid for these businesses and know the rules.
However, what’s questionable is the deal — or no deal — that occurred between the city and developers of two residential projects and a retail and restaurant center. Developers said they were promised waived sewer impact fees, though that didn’t appear in a written agreement; the city says that’s not the case since sewer impact fees, by law, can’t be waived.
We’re not pointing fingers, but such confusion does raise questions.
Contact News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbeditor.