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Committee approves plan for special tax district to lure industry

Muskogee Phoenix
July 22, 2015
D. E. Smoot | Phoenix Staff Writer

Port exec views it as essential marketing tool

A review committee impaneled by Muskogee County commissioners recommended approval for a plan that would create a special tax district proponents say would provide the tools they need to lure a new industrial tenant.

The panel's recommendation came after committee members made findings necessary to meet the statutory requirements set out by the Local Development Act. Those findings included an acknowledgement that development and economic growth would prove difficult without tax increment financing available through the act.

Committee members also determined the proposed plan and tax district would create no "unfair competitive advantage" and the establishment of the 126-acre tax district would create no conflicts with any pre-existing plans. They also found the project plan would "not supplant or replace normal public functions and services."

Eric Miller, director of the Muskogee City-County Port Authority's economic development division, said the plan essentially would extend the property tax exemption available for eligible manufacturing companies. The state exemption is limited to five years, Miller said, putting Oklahoma at a disadvantage when compared to other states where exemptions are available for up to 40 years or longer.

"This will give me another tool to go out and effectively market Muskogee as a competitor for industrial development," Miller said, expressing hope for final approval by Muskogee County commissioners. "It would mean a lot to the community, and it would mean a lot to consultants and companies that will evaluate Muskogee."

The proposed project plan provides no information about the company being courted by the port authority's recruiters, but it does provide a glimpse of the company's plans. The plan contemplates private investments totaling $35 million to $40 million for land and buildings during the first three to five years of the proposed project plan and another $140 million to $155 million for furnishings and fixtures during the next seven to 10 years.

Port authority officials anticipate a successful outcome would spur the need for 325 to 350 employees within nine years after the company initiates plant operations. Average salaries for those "jobs are expected to range between $41,000 and $49,000."

The creation of the special tax district would capture more than $10.93 million in tax revenue during the course of 20 years. That money would be used to fund infrastructure improvements worth an estimated $5.6 million and development financing assistance worth nearly $3.28 million — the balance would be used to pay administrative costs and debt service.

"This is good for the port, it's good for the city, and it's good for the county because it would make us competitive for capital-intensive projects," Port of Muskogee Director Scott Robinson said. "Today we are not competitive, and it all has to do with taxes and infrastructure."

District 1 Commissioner Ken Doke, who was appointed chairman of the review committee made up of representatives of the entities that would be affected by the proposed tax district and three members at-large, said he thinks the proposal would be a sound investment. Exact numbers have been discussed only behind closed doors, but he said the taxing jurisdictions would experience a long-term benefit by allowing a portion of new ad valorem tax revenue generated by new development be captured and diverted for infrastructure and incentives.

Stakeholders that would be impacted by the tax district include the Muskogee County Health Department, Hilldale Public Schools, Indian Capital Technology Center District No. 4, Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service District, and the Eastern Oklahoma District Library System.

"My biggest fear is that I will have to buy a plane ticket to visit my kids someday because we failed to create opportunities for them right here at home," Doke said. "We desperately need quality, high-paying jobs in Muskogee County, (and) I am truly excited that we are considering new options and are attempting to be more competitive in our efforts to recruit new companies to the area."

The resolution adopted Tuesday by the review committee will be forwarded to the Muskogee County Board of Commissioners and will be open for public comments. The first of two public hearings is scheduled during the commissioners' Aug. 3 meeting.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

Source: http://www.muskogeephoenix.com/news/local_news/committee-approves-plan-for-special-tax-district-to-lure-industry/article_45c0193b-5ca2-5fc8-821e-f684983e8295.html

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