Hubbell touts economic development
13 Dec 2017
Fort Dodge is growing, and it couldn’t be done without the economic development tools available to it, Fort Dodge area leaders told candidate-for-governor Fred Hubbell Tuesday afternoon.
Keeping those tools and tax credits in place, as well as the importance of working collaboratively, was a top topic at the meeting at the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.
The Democratic candidate from Des Moines said very little, asking questions and listening on a stop along what he calls his “Get Income Rising” tour across Iowa. Hubbell was on the third day of his four-day trip across Iowa to meet with business and community leaders.
The most important tool for economic development cities and counties have is tax increment financing, said Dennis Plautz, chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.
“TIF is the only real tool a local jurisdiction has. The rest of of it is run from Des Moines,” Plautz said. “The only alternative is cities either have to have cash up front, or they would have to issue general obligation bonds.”
TIF occurs when improvement is done on a property, and the government puts the resulting increase in tax revenue toward a special purpose. In Webster County, TIF was used to provide tax rebates for a number of years to Cargill and CJ Bio America, for instance.
Having to issue general obligation bonds slows down the process, and costs $12,000 for a referendum, Plautz said.
TIF is a fast, flexible, useful tool that gets a bad reputation because just a few towns use it poorly, he added.
“Some of the uses of TIF around the state are exactly what give people the opportunity to go on the radio and beat up TIF,” said Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich. “All of a sudden we have legislators screaming about we need to do something about this TIF abuse. Well, 99 percent of us are using it correctly.”
“I worry with tax reform and some of these things going on, we’re not going to throw away things for the moment that’s really going to cost us down the line,” Plautz said.
“There are plenty of people in the legislature who want to control (economic development) at a state level,” Bemrich said. “We still believe the best use of a tax dollar is on a local level.”
He laughed. “It’s easy to say that as a mayor, and not governor.”
Hubbell referenced his experience in business and in leading the former Iowa Department of Economic Development, and said making a decision at the “lowest” level possible is usually best.