Friday, December 14, 2012

The Smith Series: Questions 3 & 4 - EDC Con't

Editor's Note:  As promised, this is the 3rd edition of "The Smith Series".  The question below was proposed at the Herald/LEED PAC forum in October.  Commissioner Smith's answer to the questions will run every Wednesday and Friday until completed.

Intuitive Commentary by Lee Co's Newest Commissioner...Mr. Kirk Smith

Question #3Economic Development - Part 2

With a two-person staff, the Lee County Economic Development Corporation has been solely responsible for the recruitment and retention of Lee County Manufacturing and Industry jobs for years.  A shift to focusing on small business and entrepreneurial jobs versus the recruitment efforts of larger industry has become a political topic recently, as has the EDC’s relevance to our economic success and job creation efforts in general.  One medium to large size manufacturing plant locating here could employ hundreds more jobs than dozens of new small businesses over the same period of time.  What would your plan as a new commissioner for our economic development effort look like?  How would it bring significant job growth and increased tax base to Lee County?

Answer:  Fact – in the past ten years Lee County has given out over $7.5 million in economic incentives.  We have to show for those “investments” is the highest property taxes and highest unemployment than our neighboring four counties.  Government should not be in the business of deciding who the winners and losers in business unfortunately the losers are the tax payers.  The central planning concept of deciding who gets the bribe also violates the Fourteenth Amendment of “equal protection of the laws.”  Again, government sponsored bribery is wrong.  You want to provide economic incentives – treat every business equally, lower property taxes for everyone!

Question #4:  

Here’s a hypothetical question, Lee County has been selected as a finalist, along with Sumter, S.C., to land a new automotive parts manufacturing plant which will bring 450 high-paying jobs.  To win the new plant, incentives will be part of the package.  As a Lee County Commissioner would you support property tax abatements to bring these jobs here?  Yes or No?

Answer:   First, I disagree with the premise of the question – a hypothetical company coming to Lee County is surely a fable worth dreaming over.  Unfortunately with most automotive parts manufacturing going overseas because of the “high cost of labor” (i.e. high paying jobs), government regulations, higher taxes, as well the pending OBAMACARE expense, as a Lee County Commissioner I would NOT support property tax abatements for this “make believe” company that would most likely take the money and run!  NO would be the answer used in LEED-PAC attack ads.

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