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Editorial: 2018 incentive offers worth the job total

From local government officials, the answer to scrutiny about dishing out millions in incentives to businesses looking to relocate or expand goes something like, “We have to play the game to be part of the conversation.”

A business looking to relocate to the Charlotte area, for example, might do just as well picking one of our neighboring counties also willing to provide a tax break if Rowan County is not.

The practice of handing out tax incentives to new and expanding business is universal, as evidenced by Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, with cities offering billions in incentives and some pitching the possibility of renaming their city to score what would surely be a transformational economic development project. Everyone plays the game for fear of being the one that does not.

So, how do Rowan County’s incentive offers stack up?

In 2018, a total of $8.5 million in tax incentives was offered in an attempt to attract 978 jobs and $386.5 million in private investment, reporter Andie Foley wrote in Sunday’s Salisbury Post (“How successful were county’s tax incentive offers?”) Those offers work something like a grant, with companies receiving what amounts to a rebate on taxes paid after meeting conditions set in a contract.

One such example of last year’s requests is Daimler in Cleveland, which was offered a $556,500 tax break over five years for $26 million and 50 employees being called back to work at the facility, which is known for laying off and hiring folks based on demand for its trucks. Another is Project Kodiak, a yet-to-be-named business that’s been offered $1.3 million in tax incentives and a $100,000 equipment grant for $55 million in investment and 600 new jobs. One is an example of a longtime business seeking to grow and the other is a new business looking to make Rowan County its home. And, setting aside fundamental arguments about incentives, both also seem like reasonable investments if we want to grow Rowan County’s economy.

So, while giving up 75 percent or 85 percent of tax income for several years seems unnecessary, it’s the right investment considering the current state of economic development. Our community gets the jobs and salaries that come with them in addition to the full benefit of tax revenue once the incentive period ends.

All things considered, rebating $8.5 million in taxes paid for 978 jobs is not a bad deal.

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