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Travis County approves economic development incentives rules

Friday, January 17, 2014 by Jimmy Maas

Finalizing an effort that has been months in the making, the Travis County Commissioners unanimously approved revised economic development incentives for the county Tuesday.


“It’s been a struggle working on this and I think we’ve done a pretty good job by involving an array of collaborative efforts with many sources,” said Pct. 1 Commissioner Ron Davis, congratulating county staff. “So, I just want to take my hats off to these folks, Judge.”


The main changes include base requirements for construction workers employed on job sites. They must all be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. They must retain the right to bring complaints to the county. Signage must be on site with details of the county’s minimum wage. OSHA training should be provided, as well as a safety inspector on site. Companies that receive county incentives must provide documentation of compliance.


Minority-owned businesses seeking county incentives must meet Travis County’s HUB requirements. They must also meet the City of Austin’s minority and women business enterprise (MBE/WBE) requirements when seeking joint incentives from city and county.


Additional incentives are available for jobs that meet certain labor criteria. If 15 percent of hours are completed by economically disadvantaged workers, the company will gain an additional 10 percent. If veterans complete 10 percent of the hours worked, there is an additional 10 percent incentive. Companies that pay the prevailing wage in the county will get an additional 5 percent.


If the company seeks energy efficiency LEED certification for its project, it can receive up to 5 percent more. If it fills new jobs with 50 percent of Travis County residents, it can receive up to 5 percent as well.


All told, a developer can receive a maximum of 80 percent in tax incentives for a project.


The 50 percent threshold for hiring Travis County residents garnered some attention before the court vote.


“I thought that when we first started these incentives that the payoff for us was going to be that we would have our citizens hired for these jobs,” said Pct. 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez. “How closely are we following that now?”


“I don’t know if that was a requirement early on,” replied County Judge Sam Biscoe. “That requirement has surfaced lately.”


Only two companies applied for the 50 percent county resident incentive, Apple and HID Global.


Perhaps surprisingly, not many developers have come to the county to take advantage of its program. In total, nine incentivized deals are currently under contract according to County Executive for Planning and Budget Leslie Browder.


“How many people have approached us (the county for incentives)?” asked Pct. 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty.


“We’ve not had too many who’ve applied and not made it,” answered Browder. “I’d say less than five, probably two or three.”


“I think this is something the public is a little misunderstanding of,” said Daugherty. “There aren’t a tremendous amount of companies coming to this community asking for these incentives. I mean probably less than 1 percent.”


People think that there are tons of people that are getting this,” continued Daugherty. “That’s just really not true.”

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