FCEDC approves new business incentive policy

6/27/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

The Finney County Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors approved a new cash incentive policy on Wednesday that could be used to aid existing business expansions and new business recruitment.

The policy would offer $1,000 for every quality job a company creates as part of an expansion or relocation to Finney County. The new policy is similar to the method that was used to aid TexOkKan in its relocation several years ago in which the company received cash for every new job created over a five-year period.

The policy still must go to the Garden City Commission and Finney County Commission for approval. Money for incentives would come from the joint economic development fund that both the city and county contribute funds to each year, and would be limited by available funds.

FCEDC board members indicated cash incentives will allow the organization to use something besides a tax abatement to recruit new businesses, which is beneficial for those businesses that wouldn't qualify for a tax abatement.

"This incentive policy allows us to incentivize expansions of existing businesses that don't necessarily have a huge capital investment that would qualify for a tax abatement," Lona DuVall, FCEDC president, said. "It would also help with redevelopment of existing properties."

Board member Bob Kreutzer suggested defining what the FCEDC means by a "quality" job using a figure set at 1.5 times the current minimum wage in Kansas. Kreutzer said a minimum wage job in itself is not a quality job, but it is a subjective number that can be used to set the quality job minimum level.

"That would at least be a starting point. I think we have to have something in there that at least sets a benchmark," he said.

In other business:

* The board approved creating a system to inventory potential industrial properties in the county that would help guide new industrial and business prospects to locations that best fit their utility, transportation and zoning needs.

"It makes it very easy to go through the process. If someone tells us they need this much water or this much waste water, we can limit the sites we show them because we know exactly what would work for that type of use," DuVall said.

The proposed certified industrial site program needs to be approved by the city and county commissions.

Certification would involve filling out a couple of surveys about prospective properties, detailing things such as utilities, transportation access and current and future zoning. After all the information is compiled, it would be entered into a database that could be accessed through the FCEDC website.

Kreutzer said the program may help property owners figure out how to market their property.

"A lot of people may be in the situation where they have a piece of ground, but they don't understand the importance of utilities and what the locations are, and the infrastructure," he said. "This will give them an opportunity to maybe either invest or understand the rest of the costs associated with the development of their property."

* A proposal to relocate to office space downtown is apparently still on the table, despite a board vote last month to reject the offer.

Bruce Glass pitched the idea of renting space in the McCallister Building at 118 E. Laurel St. to the FCEDC, as well as the Finney County United Way and the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce, but so far, none has agreed to move from offices located in the 1500 block of East Fulton Terrace.

Glass and his wife, Beverly Schmitz Glass, executive director of Downtown Vision, are buying the building and renovating it into office space for Downtown Vision, which needs to move out of its current Main Street office at the Windsor Hotel due to an upcoming renovation project. The Glasses are looking to rent space in the building to other organizations.

FCEDC Chairman Tom Walker said Wednesday that a meeting was held Tuesday with Glass and representatives of the other groups, including the Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which had not been approached initially about the move.

Walker said one of the reasons FCEDC rejected the initial proposal was the board couldn't justify paying an additional $7,800 more per year in rent for the downtown office space. But since then, plans were revised to reduce the FCEDC's proposed space, which would reduce the overall rent to an additional $2,400 a year.

The board made no commitment on Wednesday but indicated it is open to the possibility of relocating if the other organizations agree to move.

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