County OKs new tax break policy
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

January 30, 2004 -- Hopkins County commissioners took action Monday on a request and recommendation from Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation to revise tax abatement incentives offered to new industries coming into the county.

In the same meeting, approval was given to a resolution to be submitted to the state's congressional delegation in Washington D.C. asking for a more equitable return on highway trust fund allocations.

The change in the tax abatement for a new industry or commercial interest will provide a significant tax break for the first several years of operation in exchange for the number of jobs created and the financial investment in the community.

Randy Thomas, executive vice president of the Economic Development Corporation, told commissioners the proposed new incentive plan would increase the minimum required investment from $250,000 to $500,000 and an increase in the minimum number of full-time jobs created from 10 to 15 to qualify for a more attractive abatement schedule.

The new abatement schedule will mean a 100 percent abatement in taxes for the first five years of operation if the minimum of 15 new jobs and an investment of $500,000 are met. Larger investments would be able to qualify for even more tax incentives on a seven-year abatement schedule either for a minimum investment of $5 million and the creation of 15 new jobs, or by creating 100 new jobs. A 10-year abatement period would be extended to a firm that makes a minimum $10 million investment with 15 new jobs or with the establishment of 250 jobs.

"Right now, it's very competitive out there," Thomas said. "We've had several companies that have approached us that are requiring these types of abatements."

Many other communities are already offering similar abatements to attract commercial and industrial growth, he added.

"The whole idea about tax abatements, or any type of incentive, is to bring in investment that will counter-balance the incentives that are released," he explained. "By doing so, hopefully, we will be able to attract more business into the community and be more competitive in doing so."

In other business, the commissioners court, following action Monday, has officially gone on the record in asking Congress to return more of the money invested each year by states with the federal government for transportation programs.

With the legislation authorizing the federal highway program set to expire next month, Texas Good Roads/Transportation Association is seeking support from various entities across the state in securing a greater return for each dollar paid into the program.

According to the county's resolution, Texas has given more than $5 billion to other states in the program since 1956, considerably more than is received in return. A number of states are receiving as much as $1.40 back from the federal government for each dollar invested while Texas receives just over 80 percent in return.

According to the resolution, Texas could have enjoyed a 95 percent return, $1.2 billion more, to invest in the highway program and 2003 is the first time in twelve years the state legislature has provided a meaningful increase in state highway funds.

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