Manatee County needs tax abatement tool for new jobs now

May 13, 2013 

The company wanted to buy land, build a manufacturing plant and hire 75 workers at an average annual salary of $50,000. Over the first 10 years of the company's operation here, the Bradenton area stood to gain $37.5 million in wages alone.

But we couldn't even compete. We couldn't get into the game with a manufacturer seeking a new location in our region.

The land purchase didn't happen here. The construction project didn't happen here. The people weren't hired here.

We couldn't compete because we were not able to offer the company a key economic development incentive that every other county in the region -- and most in Florida -- offer as an investment in gaining quality jobs.

On June 18, Manatee County residents will have an opportunity to level the playing field by voting "yes" for new jobs now through the Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption.

EDATE is a temporary tax exemption set up by the Florida Legislature that the Manatee Board of County Commissioners may, with consent from voters, implement in our community to accelerate job creation.

This vital economic development tool is not cash up front. It allows the county to exempt up to 100 percent of property taxes for up to 10 years for qualified companies that build or expand their facilities and create new local jobs. The companies would only be exempt from property taxes set by the county. These do not include school or other taxes levied. No one's taxes would increase as a result of this program.

While Manatee County offers some excellent incentives to businesses that create higher-wage jobs, the absence of EDATE -- a key tool for relocating and expanding companies -- is glaring as we compete with other locations for those jobs.

I discussed this inequity recently with an economic development expert who focuses on the southeastern United States. As owner and publisher of Southern Business & Development, Michael Randle has visited 1,800 communities in the Southeast over the past 20 years. He is a recognized expert on the economy of the Southeast by national media and among site selectors who advise corporations on business locations.

Randle was shocked that Manatee County lacks an EDATE provision to allow the community to compete for jobs. The value of economic development incentives to a community may be hard to understand, he said, but one factor that's easy to grasp is the power of wages generated by good jobs.

As an example, he explained how South Carolina offered a car maker a package of incentives valued at $700 million over 20 years.

"Wages at that plant are $700 million per year. Over 20 years, the total is $14 billion in wages alone," Randle said. "Those wages pay for houses, tuition, groceries, cars. The positive impact on the community is huge, and the return on investment (20 to 1) is easy to recognize."

As the lead economic development organization serving the nine communities that make up the Bradenton area, the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. talks with site selectors and business executives on a regular basis. We experience firsthand the positive reactions of location decision-makers who learn about the incredible business and community assets available here. We also experience the down-side of marking prospective new jobs off of our list because we lack an essential tool to compete for them.

Help get Manatee County into the game. Let us compete for new jobs now. Vote "yes" for EDATE, No. 2 on the ballot, on June 18.

Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp., may be contacted at info@thinkbradentonarea.com or 941-748-4842, ext. 128. For more information, visit www.thinkbradentonarea.com.

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