Longmont streamlines economic incentives
To receive the incentive without City Council approval, according to the measure passed by a 7-0 vote, a business would have to bring at least 10 new jobs that pay at least 5 percent above the average annual wage rate in Boulder County. That average wage is currently "about $52,000 or $53,000," said John Cody, president and chief executive of the Longmont Area Economic Council, "so the jobs would have to pay roughly $55,000 a year."
The city attorney drafts incentive agreements, which are administered by Longmont's economic development department, Cody said. Any such agreements would be listed on monthly and yearly reports by the city staff.
The department and the LAEC work together to offer incentives, which "are solely focused on recruitment of 'primary' employers," said Brad Power, Longmont's economic development director. "That means companies who derive most of their sales or income from outside Longmont. The idea is to bring new money into a community and spread the impact - as opposed to, say, a hair salon that serves people who are already here."
Power said his department worked with three companies in the past 18 months, which were established in Longmont but were looking elsewhere. "We used incentives to persuade them to expand and stay here," he said. "We engage companies that are looking at choices like that and try to 'tip' a decision-maker."
The process of awarding incentives was based on a point system, Power said, and the process of seeking City Council approval for each incentive offer had become "kind of cumbersome. So we worked over the summer to formulate the ordinance at the staff level. And we came up with the two thresholds: the 10 jobs and 5 percent above the county average pay."
The incentives are performance-based rebates, said at-large city councilman Alex Sammoury. "We don't just say, 'Here's the money. Have fun.' "
What if Longmont were flooded with incentive requests that came in under the requirement for council approval?
"That would be a great problem to have," said Ward 1 councilman Brian Bagley. "But I did think of that. What if we had 1,000 of them? That would be $75 million in incentives. I considered a cap; should we set a limit of 10 a year? There's a fine line between incentives and unnecessary incentives. You don't need to pay everybody that wants a business here. We're still responsible for making sure the funds are spent appropriately. We'll have monthly reports so we can stay on top of it."
Sammoury agreed. "We have some very talented people on the city staff," he said, "and we've had some very good results with the incentives. They still have to report to us. If we see that it is being abused, we can put a stop to it."
"There's still the qualifications," added Power, "and a lot don't qualify."
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