New Small-Biz Opportunity Zones

Posted by Anonymous

(Image: Main St. Lockport at Dusk)

The Buffalo News reports a new policy by the Niagara County IDA for its three cities.

New small businesses in parts of Niagara County’s three cities will have a chance at tax breaks normally reserved for the big boys, under terms of a new policy at the Industrial Development Agency.  At the County Legislature’s request, the IDA worked out a plan for “opportunity zones,” which gives eligible businesses five years of exemption from all property taxes.
In Niagara Falls, the opportunity zones are along Main and Niagara streets and Pine and Highland avenues. Peter Kay, the city’s director of economic development and planning, said under the IDA’s criteria, the zones could have been “practically the whole city, because it was [distressed] census tracts and census tracts adjacent to them. Even DeVeaux Woods would have qualified.” So Niagara Falls decided to limit the zones, too.
“By throwing the whole city into the mix, it would actually harm the intent, because people who were on those [designated] streets could say, ‘I want to go down near the water and I’ll get all these tax breaks,’ ” Kay said.

In Lockport, Tucker isn’t limiting the available areas, but he’s hoping the opportunity zones will help him fill Harrison Place, the former auto parts plant at Walnut and Washburn streets that the city owns after foreclosing on the previous owner.
“I think it certainly can’t hurt,” said Tucker, who also is vice chairman of the IDA. “In these tough times I think it gives us an edge.”
It is nice to see a new policy targeting small business in areas of need. As wonderful as it would be to land a Hail Mary of a large new business, it is the small ones that really form the foundation of our economic health.

Some thoughts:

1) Will a portion of the investment be tied in permanent infrastructure improvement? Or in other words, even if the business does not make it, or decides to pick up and leave once the taxes kick in, will we be left with a new or updated building in the city?

2) What do we do to reward those who already took the chance? The article says "new businesses". Is there some other policy that would reward the expansion or large investment in an existing small business?

3) How will this be marketed? Is there a larger plan for what type of development we want to see and where? The article lays out how separate mayors are implimenting the policy. The fact that the entire areas of some are eligible (distressed or near distressed areas) should be eye opening to the need of short range tax sacrifices for long term growth. The growth still will not happen automatically. Focused plans are needed.

4) A system like this is needed for major house renovations etc. The low income housing programs are nice but a middle class is sorely needed for a healthy city and should also be proactively fostered. Move vacant city owned homes for $1 and offer similar tax breaks to reward those who have the means and are willing to take the risk at restoring a home. Strong contracts laying out the obligations a must. The structures are generating zero tax revenue as thay stand and surpressing those nearby.

I've sent an e-mail for more information. I'll post again if I find out anything else.


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Rocketboy said...

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How quaint!

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LockportGal said...

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