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Thread: Balancing business interests with the public's interest in the PILOT program

  1. #1
    Oct 2007
    Way out there

    Balancing business interests with the public's interest in the PILOT program

    As a planner in my city's economic development office, I'm responsible for presenting payment-in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT or PILT) cases to the Industrial Development Board. I have very strong opinions about the whole PILOT concept, particularly the way it is practiced and administered in my municipality.

    Rather than discussing each of my issues with PILOTs, I would like to get your opinions/ideas/advice on one particular issue: How do you balance the influence of business groups (especially your local Chamber of Commerce) with the needs of the public in your PILOT (or other incentive) program?

    Having just completed a master's program in planning, this is my first 'real' job in planning/e.d. I had no idea how much power and control such business groups would have on the process. In short, the opinion I have developed over my six months working here is that a PILOT incentive is not an incentive to these folks at all; rather, it is an entitlement. Even companies producing low-paying jobs with minimal community involvement are being rewarded.

    I constantly feel that my integrity is being stretched by this process. Your ideas and advice are most welcome.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
    Jan 2005
    Land of Confusion
    How would you characterize the public interests you are seeking to balance with business interests? Are you speaking in terms of what is best for the city's fiscal capacity? I suppose public concerns could also relate to the type of jobs created, environmental practices, or site design criteria for new development such as preferring certain locations of your city.

    I have never worked in the area of economic development but I would expect that a best practice would involve a set of criteria for awarding incentives rather than just handing out cash indiscriminately or because a politician says so...

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
    Jun 2007
    If you are not comfortable with what is being required of you, it may be time to start looking for a new job before this one either eats away at you or you just decide you don't care anymore. I've known alot of econ devo types that lose sight of the bigger picture and only focus on bringing XYZ corp into town, doesn't sound like you are one of those Good luck.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
    Apr 2006
    Promoting synergies...
    Welcome to the field of economic development. Plan9 is dead on, if you are uncomfortable then you should find another field or town in which to work.

    I have been doing economic development for almost 3 years and PILOTS, tax incentives, free etc. do not bother me in the least. I would rather have or keep the company in my town than have them locate down the street. Even the low paying jobs do have a benefit to your area. These entry level jobs are where many people learn key job skills so the can progress up the earnings ladder. Also not everyone have the desire and/or skills needed for a job with higher responsibility.

    Is your city doing a cost benefit analysis when they do these PILOTs? This should help way the benefits to the business community with the interest of the public. Is your city doing its due diligence? Are you making these companies sign a performance contract or include performance clauses in the development agreement?

    The notion that business and public interest are always opposed outdated. Incentives are used throughout the country. The South is especially aggressive in there use.

    Best of luck and I hope you find your way.
    "You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it,..." -Bane

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