Walton County is currently the only county in the News 13 viewing area that does not offer tax incentives to new or existing businesses. But, the Economic Development Alliance wants this to change.
A referendum could give the Board of Commissioners' power to grant tax exemptions to businesses. The board had this power for 20 years prior to 2010.
Now, they are looking to have it once again with a passing vote this November.
"Anything that another community has that we do not have sets us at a disadvantage for being able to recruit businesses and jobs," said Walton EDA Director, Scarlett Phaneuf.
In hard economic times, she said incentives for new and growing businesses can make all the difference between coming here and going elsewhere.
"Our hope it to be able to recruit private sector businesses that are paying wages above the local average to create employment opportunities for local residents," said Phaneuf.
If this referendum passes this November, it will allow the Walton County Board of commissioners to grant tax exemptions to eligible new and expanding businesses in Walton County.
These are businesses that are bringing ten or more full time jobs to the area, while paying them wages above the county average, and they must be involved in manufacturing ventures.
News 13 showed the referendum text to retired policeman and Walton resident, Wayne Grandstaff.
"Reading this for the first time, if it'll bring in new jobs, new employees and more money to the county, I think we need to do it," said Grandstaff,
But, he said he worries that a requirement of above average wages for 10 or more workers for each business could be a lot of pressure for these businesses.
"I don't want them to get a tax break and then the business go under because they can't afford it and lay them off," said Grandstaff.
The language to be placed on the November 6, 2012 ballot will be as follows:
Shall the board of county commissioners of this county be authorized to grant, pursuant to s. 3, Art. VII of the State Constitution, property tax exemptions for new businesses and expansions of existing businesses that are expected to create new, full-time jobs in the county?
Yes-For authority to grant exemptions.
No-Against authority to grant exemptions.
Florida Statute 196.1995 governs the program. It states that new or expanding businesses that would be eligible for this abatement would have to meet the following criteria.
For new businesses:
1) A business must be establishing 10 or more new full time employees, paying wages above the local average, and they must be engaged in manufacturing or be a qualified targeted industry business. Or
2) They must be creating 25 or more new full time jobs, and selling more than 50 % of their product outside of the state, so they have to be exporting. Or
3) They must be a new business to the state on a site clearly separate from any other operation that they may own, and have 50 or more full time employees. Or
4) Any business or organization located in an enterprise zone or Brownfield area that begins operation on a site clearly separate from any other operation that they own.
For expanding businesses:
1) A business must be creating 10 or more new full time jobs at wages above the local average and they must be engaged in manufacturing. Or
2) They must be establishing 25 or more new full time jobs, and selling more than 50% of their product outside of the state, and they must be increasing operations on a site located within the County or collocating with another branch of their same business and increasing jobs or productivity by at least 10%. Or
3) Any business located in an enterprise zone or Brownfield area that increases operations at their site located in these areas.