City Council passes tweaked plan designed to incentivize business investment
Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp acknowledged that the city's initial tax increment financing (TIF) zone program — which was passed in 2013 and designed to incentivize businesses by establishing requirements for tax rebates — didn't go as was hoped. But he said the city learned from the experience and he is hopeful that a new alternative will pay dividends.
City Council approved the new plan, which it's calling Wilsonville Investment Now, during a meeting Monday, Oct. 19.
"I think it's so critical that the community as a whole has that broad perspective and learns from its actions over time but is not afraid to be innovative, to try something out and be nimble enough to go forward with an idea that looks to be beneficial," Knapp said.
While the old TIF program, which expired in 2019 and was never utilized, only applied to six properties, the new one will apply to any piece of property outside the city's three current urban renewal districts. It also establishes qualifications based on a point system rather than strict requirements.
The new program stipulates that businesses must attain between 60-79 points to meet the first TIF tier, which would provide a four-year property tax rebate, and businesses with at least 80 points would get a seven-year rebate.
Investment in Wilsonville and employing high-wage workers are the two predominant point-getters (businesses get one point for every $500,000 in investment and additional points for the number of jobs that are above 100% of the average county wage, with more points for higher-wage jobs). The approved point system designates up to four points each for businesses that meet diversity requirements such as being owned by women, minorities, disadvantaged people or veterans, and for businesses that are already located in Wilsonville.
"A company still needs to provide a large capital investment or a large amount of jobs with high wages to qualify for the program," consultant Nick Popenuk said.
At least for now, the program has one notable limitation. According to state law, the city can't designate more than 25% of its land for urban renewal and TIF zones are considered to be urban renewal. Currently, 22% of the city is covered by urban renewal and so there are 143 acres that would be allowed to use the program, at least until one of the city's urban renewal districts expires.
City staff said the council could choose to remove property from the current Coffee Creek Industrial Area, which is the next frontier of industrial development, but advised against that because it would deplete resources from that urban renewal fund, which goes toward public improvements.
According to the plan, 100% of property taxes associated with revenue accumulated due to the new investment will be rebated. However, that doesn't include money for local option levies and general obligation bonds.
Wilsonville Economic Development Manager Jordan Vance said the new plan could be a way to market the city to prospective employers and that it is the first program of its kind in Oregon.
For his part, Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Kevin Ferrasci O'Malley wholeheartedly endorsed the program.
"The Chamber believes WIN (Wilsonville Investment Now) represents a very promising opportunity to encourage significant quality development within the city of Wilsonville and most important positive growth opportunities for more, new, great paying jobs," he said during the meeting.
The council also extended its state of emergency to continue its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state of emergency, which allows council easier access to resources and to nimbly collaborate with other jurisdictions, was extended through Dec. 31. The new measure also provides the city's planning director the authority to quickly authorize temporary use permits that would allow businesses to add covered areas to their facilities, such as restaurants that want to continue to provide outdoor seating during the winter months.
"Our businesses need to have the ability to adapt," Council President Kristin Akervall said. "We need to try to open doors for them to do so in any way they can, recognizing the virus is still prevalent out there in our state. We need to think about it diligently and clearly but find avenues forward for our business community and our citizens. Anything we can do in that vein is worth considering."
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