Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Incentives Can Help City Make International Business Push

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Incentives Can Help City Make International Business Push

Article excerpt

Byline: Ginny Myrick

As our city prepares to take advantage of the global exposure provided by Jacksonville Jaguars games in London, a competitive array of state and local economic development incentives can play an important role in attracting international businesses to Northeast Florida

Although often portrayed as tax giveaways or "corporate welfare," economic development incentives are neither: in fact, they are predominantly back-end tax refunds based on performance and aimed specifically at creating jobs. A win-win for taxpayers and businesses, they spur investment, generate employment and grow the tax base while reducing the amount of capital companies need to relocate or expand to our region.

Every state in the U.S. offers incentives, but Florida's are among the most well-designed. Participating businesses pay their taxes up front and receive partial refunds - if and when they live up to benchmarks outlined in the contract they're required to sign when they apply for this benefit. The benchmarks are based on the number of jobs created, amount of capital investment, average wage paid, and the type of industry being incentivized.

If a company fails to meet the established requirements, it forfeits its refund and pays a penalty. Meanwhile, our community enjoys the benefit of jobs and investment that didn't exist before.

Incentive rules established by the Florida Legislature protect taxpayers from companies that might try to game the system. Florida's incentives are strictly quid pro quo, and they're audited each year to ensure businesses live up to their end of the bargain. The state allows local governments to add other incentives - like the REV grants for Jacksonville Lime and Schratter Foods that have been in the news in recent months - to their toolkit if they choose to do so. But the majority of these local incentives are also performance-based, back-end tax refunds.

On rare occasions, the state provides a business with some discretionary money up front. This type of incentive is indeed a giveaway, but it's one that provides an excellent return on investment if it swings the balance to Florida when there's stiff competition from a city outside the state. …

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