The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Election 2013

January 21, 2013

Ward 3 commission candidates share goals

(Continued)

ENID, Okla. — Tax Increment Finance districts

Enid City Commission recently approved two TIF districts to attract new investment to the city.

A TIF district creates incentive for new development by allowing a portion of the ad valorem tax revenue created by building new business to be returned to the developing company to defray start-up investment.

One TIF would create $4.6 million in incentives for Vector Properties to purchase and “de-mall” Oakwood Mall, a $35 million project. The other TIF would create $15 million in incentives and $12 million in public infrastructure improvements to bring a $200 million canola processing plant to Enid.

Question: Are these TIF incentives an appropriate means of attracting new investment to the city, or should private industry fund its own development?

Ezzell

Ezzell said incentives such as the TIF districts are essential to bringing new industry and new jobs to Enid.

“If you look at the way communities are doing incentives in other, perhaps more-competitive areas, it will blow your mind,” Ezzell said. “Getting new investment in our community is a huge deal.”

He said Enid’s population, currently about 50,000, is at a threshold for attracting larger companies and more amenities.

“We’re at the 50,000 census threshold, and we need to push past that,” he said. “At 2020, it would be great if we could be at 60,000 or more.”

He said achieving that growth requires taking the risk of offering incentive packages to companies looking for a place to invest their money.

“We’re taking a gamble,” Ezzell said. “People shouldn’t think of any of these things as sure bets, but it seems like a worthwhile gamble.”

Stephens

Stephens said he’s not opposed to using TIF districts to attract new industry, but he was opposed to creating a TIF for the Oakwood Mall project.

He said incentives put in place to bring StarTek to Enid are an example of how incentive packages can benefit the company, but not Enid in the long term.

“Look at StarTek,” Stephens said. “They were brought here with city incentives, and once that went away, now StarTek doesn’t exist here anymore.”

He also questioned a TIF that helped fund expansion of AdvancePierre Foods.

“They were a good, vibrant company, and I don’t think they needed those tax breaks in order to expand their facilities,” Stephens said.

“TIFs are a double-edged sword,” Stephens said. “Yes, it does attract businesses, but are they going to stick around? You have to be very careful.

“You have to look at their track record and make sure they’re not just using this as a way to cut their production cost, and once that expires, they move on down the road.”

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Election 2013