Frisco mulls economic incentives
In light of the recent economic downturn, the Town of Frisco evaluated several incentive programs to assist local business owners and developers. Staff recently presented several options to council it felt might encourage new development, job creation and economic growth during the recession. Town manager Michael Penny said the town feels it is important to find ways to help local businesses thrive during the economic downturn. He told council he used to think there wasn’t much they could do to encourage things like economic diversity and vitality, but is starting to think differently after examining what other communities have done. Town staff studied incentive programs in several Colorado towns, including: Wheat Ridge, Lakewood, Boulder, Vail, Englewood, Denver, Parker and Castle Rock. Executive assistant Theresa Paul said the communities’ agendas are all different and specific to the individual economic climates, but are all similar in concept. In considering each objective, Paul said the town would want to avoid any additional direct costs. Penny said the town should think long term about its economy: What kind of businesses can it attract, what does the next generation value, and what will relationships between local governments and businesses evolve to?”Are these ideas a component to give us more flexibility?” Penny asked. Paul presented several incentive examples to town council for consideration. 1) Expedited development review during the building and planning processStaff said this incentive would help facilitate the planning and building process for new and existing businesses. It would also include a waiver or reduction of permits and fees, like a banner or sign fee waiver. 2) Sales tax rebates/sharing programThis option would allow council to approve a share in new sales tax revenue from new businesses, and specify a portion of the new tax brought in to be rebated back. Existing businesses planning to expand would also be able to take part. In addition to the share back, the council could also decide to take a percentage of the new enhanced sales tax and put it into an economic development fund, which would help finance additional incentive programs. 3) Employee rebates for new full-time positionsStaff said this incentive could encourage new job creation. Council could stipulate the amount of the rebate and how long the position must remain in existence in order to qualify. 4) Financial assistance to existing businesses for facade and signage improvementsThe town could choose to match funds or provide grants for existing businesses looking to improve their exterior. Staff said the purpose of this incentive is to encourage businesses to add to the aesthetic appeal of the community.5) Interest loan assistance The town would work with local bank branches to help support local businesses with financial assistance. Paul said there are numerous businesses who don’t know they can apply for Small Business Association loans, and only try for conventional loans. Penny said the town could act as a “conduit of information” for small business owners, and let them know what’s available.6) Enhanced Web supportIn this incentive, the town would create a page on the Town of Frisco government website dedicated to economic development. Staff said several other Colorado cities already have similar pages, and its purpose would be to educate business owners about incentive programs, application process and applicable contact information. Penny said staff had talked to business owners in town about the ideas, and they all seemed to like them. Councilman Woody Van Gundy said people may like the ideas now, but when the economy recovers, they might not be so fond.Councilman Larry Sawyer said he is wary about the tax incentive, and that he didn’t want the town to get into monitoring sales tax. He did say he liked the Web enhancement idea. Councilwoman Eileen Davies said she loved examples 5 and 6, but has reservations about 2 and 3. Councilwoman Kim Cancelosi also said she was hesitant regarding employee rebates. Councilman Kent Willis said the low-interest loan incentive was the only one he liked.”To me, that’s where it makes the most sense,” he said. Mayor Bill Pelham said he is all for economic development, and anything the town can do is helpful. In the end, council decided to continue with research on incentives 1, 4 and 6. Paul said staff will continue research into the three objectives and present its findings to council at the April 26 meeting.
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