Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Change in City's Incentives Policy Urged

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Change in City's Incentives Policy Urged

Article excerpt

Byline: Binyamin Appelbaum, Times-Union staff writer

Four of the most prominent candidates for mayor say they support a broader use of financial incentives to attract or keep businesses on Jacksonville's Southside than is allowed under the city's current policy.

Matt Carlucci, Tommy Hazouri, John Peyton and Mike Weinstein all said the Delaney administration's long-standing ban on Southside incentives was no longer in Jacksonville's best interests, though they differed sharply on what should take its place.

Among the major candidates, only Ginger Soud expressed support for the city's current policy, which offers tax rebates to selected companies relocating to Jacksonville or expanding their local operations.

The Delaney administration has granted about $231 million in rebates, almost exclusively to companies downtown and on the Westside and Northside. Other forms of incentives such as infrastructure commitments or job training for prospective workers, are administered separately.

Word of the candidates' comments drew a sharp response from environmentalists and Northside community leaders, who said Southside incentives would stymie revitalization efforts to the north and west of the river while further overloading roads and other infrastructure to the south.

"It's an attack on growth management," said Pam Edwards-Roine, director of the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council. "We really need to focus on downtown and the Northside [because] incentives can make a great deal of difference in a marginal area like this."

All four candidates, however, defended their approaches as an improvement on the current system that would not jeopardize its benefits.

Weinstein managed the city's current incentive policy as the first head of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. He said the blanket ban once made sense, but the city now needs a more nuanced approach. He proposed replacing the current system with a case-by-case evaluation including geography and infrastructure.

"We need to more carefully look at each and every project and not have blanket decisions," Weinstein said. …

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