Raleigh City Council members are a studious and cautious bunch, and the discussion over whether to formalize some kind of tax incentive plan for businesses recruited by the city thankfully demonstrated that caution.
Durham and Charlotte have incentive programs that lure businesses with tax breaks. In Charlotte, for example, companies that bring in at least 20 jobs and $3 million can avoid 90 percent of property taxes on the increased value of their business site.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, who built a business, believes in a “structured policy” that clearly lays out what incentives might be available. That clarity would help the city’s staff when business owners or representatives inquire about relocating to Raleigh. She says incentives should be tied to companies delivering on their promises of jobs and investment, not just giveaways. That’s exactly right.
But Council member Thomas Crowder offered the right note of caution as council members discussed the issue.
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“The biggest incentive we can have is to maintain a great quality of life, a well educated workforce, parks and greenways,” he said.
Yes, Raleigh has to compete, even within North Carolina. But the Capital City has a multitude of attractive draws for all kinds of businesses, the “incentives” Crowder was talking about. And, established businesses sometimes don’t like the idea that new businesses coming to town get incentives that businesses already here do not get.
The Raleigh council has been appropriately cautious. Any incentives that are established should reflect that caution and a conservative approach.