Incentives Plan Unveiled Council Has Next Step in Responding to Economic Report

Article excerpt

A call yesterday for a strategic plan and vision to deal with

economic incentives clears the way for City Council to take the

next step, possibly within weeks.

After eight months of study by more than 50 citizens,

Jacksonville Community Council Inc. issued its 26-page report

yesterday about Incentives for Economic Development.

The 18 recommendations led with a call for an overall regional

vision for the use of the economic perks. That merges with the

council's debate of a new incentives policy crafted by the

Jacksonville Economic Development Commission for most of Duval

County.

"I would hope that during the month of July the council would

revisit the policy decisions and give the JEDC some direction,"

said commission executive director Mike Weinstein.

"They've all agreed to wait" for the JCCI report, he said.

The commission's recommended policy calls for stricter

targeting and monitoring of city-approved incentives and was

introduced into council April 14.

But council President Jim Overton deferred council approvals

pending the JCCI report. Incoming president Don Davis, who takes

office next week, could not be reached yesterday.

JCCI leaders presented their study yesterday to about 150

people at the Omni Jacksonville Hotel.

In all, JCCI listed 18 recommendations that called for more

stringent awarding and monitoring of economic incentives by

city, state and federal officials.

Those recommendations include a call for the city to target new

development and redevelopment in specific low-income

neighborhoods and to target incentives that provide "significant

new public infrastructure" to benefit the surrounding community.

They also include a request that the commission use a new

economic-analysis model for the region to better measure the

pros and cons of incentives packages, which the commission

already plans to do.

And recommendations also call for the commission to add more

than a half-dozen ex-officio members to represent the Duval

County public schools, the six Citizens Planning Advisory

Committees and local governments in surrounding counties.

"I thought the study was very good, and I thought that they

handled the issues very well," said committee member Bill

Weston, a professor at the Florida Coastal School of Law.

JCCI study chairman Henry Thomas now takes over study

implementation, typically a two-year process. "I really think in

many, many regards we are on the same page as people at the

city," he said.

At the same time, JCCI's No. 2 recommendation called for the

Duval Delegation to lobby for Florida legislative approval to

create a regional economic-development commission to start by

2000.

The call for a regional economic body comes in wake of two

recent area economic summits, both of which yielded requests for

better regional communication but not a legislative authority.

Weinstein cautioned JCCI as the regional counties, specifically

dominant Duval County and growing St. Johns, work out problems

in their political relationships. He doesn't think a regional

commission is the next step.

"If you discuss it seriously now, you risk offending a lot of

people and you won't be successful," he said. …