April 15, 2011
In 2005, we saw the development of an Enhanced Enterprise Zone — an initiative that created sections of land that would award special tax rates to anyone who would maintain a place of business upon them.
It worked like this: You start or expand a business into this “zone,” guarantee a couple new jobs and invest at least $100,000 back into Pettis County and you don’t have to pay property taxes on the buildings that you are doing business out of until 2030.
Sure, “Enhanced Enterprize Zone” kind of sounds like the name of a rejected “Sonic The Hedgehog” level and the ink-friendly “EEZ” sounds like it could be shorthand for a tax form that is even easier than the 1040EZ, but despite the deeply generic name, this magical and fertile business land seems to be doing everything that it was intended to do.
It technically only exists on paper — there are no fences or painted grass lines that distinguish zone space from non-zone space, but they don’t really need to exist any harder than that.
Now I guess it’s nearly impossible to determine if these businesses would have ended up in Pettis County without these tax breaks — I bet most (maybe not all, but most) of the local expansion would have happened anyhow, but I think it is safe to attribute many of the new businesses to this zone initiative.
It ultimately seems to be a good thing for the County of Pettis, the City of Sedalia and the surrounding communities. It seems to me that new businesses and new jobs really are being drawn in by the deal that we have laid out and that the local economy is better for it.
It seems downright generous on their part to award us their business based on such relatively small concessions. I’m shocked that Benton or Johnson or any number of mid-Missouri counties haven’t undercut us.
It’s the same conflict that happens between states, cities, counties, and even countries — the capitalist is always looking for the best deal and the government that will offer them the best deal when it comes to taxes and other financial interactions between business and government.
I’m nearly shocked that we don’t find ourselves in some sort of bidding war over who is willing to present the easiest and least costly path towards establishment. In a fierce battle to get new businesses, I fear we might have to start awarding full tax leniency for a few years — we might even have to start paying them.
I’m relieved to see that the business owners aren’t trying to milk potential location suitors for everything that they are worth — instead agreeing to a mutually beneficial arrangement that helps everyone out.
The EEZ is all right with me — even if these tax breaks weren’t essentially the thing that sealed the deal for each and every business that takes advantage of them. Even if there are some who would have come here anyway, there are others who wouldn’t have and I think there is real business drawing power in this “zone.”
The tax exemption is not just a relocation incentive — during the sort of rough financial times that we have been experiencing that extra money that they don’t have to pay might be the extra money that is keeping them afloat. It might be the extra money that is keeping them in a growing and expanding state and keeping the company going, even if business is slow.
Maybe the exact numbers are unimportant — maybe the mere fact that we are willing to cut them some slack in order to help them establish their financial foothold here will drive new business towards Pettis County. Maybe the mere existence of an “Enhanced Enterprise Zone” will draw them in.
Come on down and start your business right here in Pettis County — your property taxes are on us and the combined city and rural business you’ll get will ensure your success. I think people constantly underestimate the viability of our local market. There’s money to be made here — come and take it.