Incentives Vote Keeps Economic Development Tool Available

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY NOV 9, 2020

It was clear on Election Day that Sarasota County voters wanted to see the Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption extended for another decade.

More than 65.33% of voters in Sarasota County approved renewal, and similar city-level referenda were approved by 61.67% of City of Sarasota and 68.2% of voters in North Port. The tax exemption means each jurisdiction can grant businesses that expanding or relocating a property tax incentive of up to 100% of taxes owed for up to 10 years. The exemption, which must be approved by commissioners in each jurisdiction, will only be available to companies increasing jobs and paying higher wages than the local median income.

Dave Bullock, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, said the vote ensures a tool remains in the toolbox for economic development in the community. Since first being approved by voters in 2010, the incentives have been awarded to nine companies. While the businesses receiving the support promised a collective 956 jobs would be created in the region, they have in fact created 1,649 jobs with an annual wage of $46,467.44. The activity primarily took place within the manufacturing sector.

“With the economy like it is now, every company is looking for every advantage they can get,” Bullock said. “Interest rates are low and there is a lot of interest in capital investment. This makes it a little more enticing.”

The premise is the incentives will prove worth the public investment through lost property taxes because the exemption helps generates high wage jobs to the benefit of the local economy.

But there’s also value in the exemption in simply getting the attention of scouts and business relocation consultants in the first place. Especially since the state of Florida has largely pulled out of the incentives game, the local incentives help to check a box on the list of attractive qualities for a community to businesses looking to move.

“No one comes here just because they get an exemption, but it helps make that decision,” Bullock said. Meanwhile, a community that doesn’t offer an exemption at all may not even make the short list of possible options. “It keeps us in the game and keeps us equal to other communities

But Bullock stressed the exemptions also helps existing companies looking to grow. One of the largest success stories for the exemption has been PGT, one of the first companies to receive the support. The Venice-area windows manufacturer ended up consolidating North Carolina business to Sarasota County to the benefit of the local economy.

So did extending the exemption keep Sarasota under consideration with any major businesses considering a move here soon? Bullock can’t say for sure, but said the EDC is always in conversations with companies, and it’s probably best the organization didn’t have to announce a sunset of local tax incentives. About five manufacturing and logistics companies continue to engage to EDC about a potential move to the region — Bullock cannot disclose names or further details. In total, there’s some 400 new jobs at stake in negotiations.

“Not all these jobs will come about,” he stressed. “You get a lot of tire kickers, just like you may look at a bunch of cars before you settle on one. But we’re confident some of these are going to happen.”

Photo courtesy EDC of Sarasota County.

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