On Friday, the Jacksonville City Council’s Special Economic Development Incentives Committee finalized a draft version of the city’s public investment policy, which has been discussed at previous meetings, finishing two years of dedicated work spanning two mayoral administrations.
Included: countywide programs; state programs, such as qualified targeted industries; programs for economically distressed areas; programs for Northwest Jacksonville and downtown; and programs for film and television.
Office of Economic Development head Kirk Wendland noted the most recent changes in the document included revisions of distress criteria to include only household income and unemployment rates, which “shows a change in language to reflect a two-criteria approach” rather than a four-criteria approach used in previous drafts.
These criteria determine incentive levels across a variety of categories, ranging from Recapture Enhanced Value (REV) grants to help with ad valorem taxes to Qualified Targeted Industry incentives. Those satisfying both criteria of economic distress will be eligible for greater incentives.
A couple of examples, to illustrate how the public investment policy spurs businesses to move into these areas.
REV grants can go up to 60 percent of the ad valorem tax’s incremental increase in areas with one criterion of the two; if two criteria are satisfied, that number goes to 75 percent.
The economically distressed area targeted industry program, which requires wages to be at least 60 percent of the county’s median wage, awards companies from $1,000 to $2,000 a job, depending on whether one or two distress criteria are satisfied.
Committee member Matt Schellenberg noted that while jobs have come to Jacksonville in recent years, the jobs created are largely not in distressed areas. He also wanted to know what other counties are doing to address their own inequities.
In Pasco County, Wendland noted that a one-cent sales tax was passed, with 20 percent of that going into an economic development fund. Since going into effect in January 2015, that tax has grossed $54 million for economic development.
Quite likely, given the spirited public discourse over the pension tax referendum, there is no political appetite in Duval County for an additional sales tax to fill the coffers of an economic development fund.
After discussion, the committee adopted the policy, and prepared for legislation to repeal the previous policy for the new one.
The previous policy was first passed in 2006 and amended in 2012.
Legislation authorizing the policy will be sponsored by individual members of the subcommittee, and will be introduced to the city council by the office of general counsel.
As well, the committee moved to withdraw a 2015 piece of legislation that would have amended the existing public investment policy.