Incentives would benefit businesses
An earlier version of this staff opinion - the one that appears on Page 14 in the Jan. 19 print edition of the Observer - incorrectly described Maitland's economic incentive program, which is the subject of a referendum on the Jan. 31 ballot. Maitland would be required to meet the state's minimum standards for business incentives. The city has not identified whether it will simply meet those standards or surpass them, as officials are waiting to see if the referendum passes on Election Day. For more information on the proposed economic incentives legislation, click here.
Should businesses get a pass on their taxes to set up shop in Orange County? What about in Maitland? Voters will decide on Jan. 31 whether they think economic incentives will help or hurt in the long run.
What we already know is it will make the county and the city more attractive to businesses that want even more of an excuse to set up shop. And in both cases, it gives job seekers — at least those seeking a living wage — something to cheer for.
The stipulations behind Orange County’s proposal are much more specific — for now — about how the county would handle the minimum standards for businesses that qualify for the exemptions, though that will require public hearings to pass. It would give property tax breaks to businesses that add at least 10 — and in some cases at least 25 — above-average wage full-time jobs.
Maitland and the county would have to adopt state-mandated minimums. Maitland could choose to adopt higher standards than that in the future.
Orange County and Maitland, if it sticks with the state’s minimum standards for the program, would incentivize businesses that make at least 50 percent of their money from sales outside of Florida. That’s money that otherwise would have stayed outside the state, but would now be pulled into the local economy.
What Maitland will have, if the referendum passes on Jan. 31, is the permission to draft its economic future. It also puts a lot of trust in the hands of the City Council, which will offer incentives to whatever business it pleases, so long as they follow the minimum standards for qualifying businesses.
Absent strict specifics, that could leave the door wide open for conflicts of interest between Council members and their friends. That could only manifest itself if a Council member were powerful enough to convince enough of the Council to vote for a specific business. Though you may not suspect this Council of being so devious, a future Council could be.
Does Maitland need more business to help keep its economy afloat? Absolutely. But it needs safeguards to make sure that new businesses in the area grow valuable jobs, and to ensure future Councils don’t make strange bedfellows with new businesses.