County Comment: Business Incentives and A Transportation Grant

County Comment
Business Incentives and A Transportation Grant
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

In the Washington County Board of County Commissioners' meeting held on October 17, measures were presented that would improve the ability to attract business and industry to the County, and look at the ways Human Service agencies serve their clients transportation needs.
Economic Development Commission Executive Director Tim Troxell, and Deputy Director Cassandra Latimer requested changes to eligibility criteria for Washington County's New Jobs Tax Credit program.
The program provides eligible companies with credits on Washington County's real property tax and business personal property. The credits are a graduated amount over a 6-year period and eligible companies may also qualify for a 6-year credit on Maryland's corporate income tax, personal income tax, or insurance premiums tax.
Credits are reserved for companies conducting business within high-technology industries and offering well-paying jobs. Companies in the restaurant, retail, hospitality or warehouse and distribution industries are excluded.
Latimer and Troxell said that since the credits were enacted by the Commissioners in July 2002, only one company took advantage of the incentives.
EDC reviewed the effectiveness of the program in an effort to fine-tune the County's business attraction and retention tools.
Under the criteria, a business would be eligible if it performed 30,000 square feet of new construction or leased space in that amount, and created at least 50 new jobs, half of which paying at least 150% of the average weekly wage. That sum would amount to $24.23 per hour or $50,398 per year.
Under the suggested changes, businesses would need 10,000 square feet of new construction or leased space, create at least 25 new jobs, with 50% of the new jobs paying at least 135% of the average weekly wage that would amount to $21.80 per hour or $45,344 per year. The figures were based on current average weekly wage per Washington County worker of $16.15 per hour or $33,592 per year.
Latimer told the Board that about 20 new business prospects could benefit from the rule changes, but only two prospects would benefit if the rules stayed as they were. Commissioner Snook requested a report on the credit program be given in 6 months and the revisions were approved.
A project on the books for over 4 years is getting closer to fruition with acceptance of a $40,000 grant from the Maryland Transportation Administration (MTA).
In 2001, the Commissioners wanted to know if there could be improvements to health and human services related transportation in the County if agencies worked together to coordinate trips their clients take.
On October 17, Health Department Assistant Health Officer Rod MacRae and Washington County Disability Advisory Committee Vice-Chair Bill Beard told the Board that the grant would fund development of a plan to coordinate and consolidate certain aspects of human service transportation currently being conducted by non-profit organizations.
Last November, recommendations of the Transportation Coordination Sub-committee of Washington County's Disabilities Advisory Committee were presented to the Board. At that time, it was recommended that a coordinator of transportation be hired to review routes and destinations of human service vehicles and develop alternatives to the current methods. The intent is to reduce duplication of services and to provide improved service. The Washington County Health Department was to be the lead agency in the procurement of the funding and would act as the chief fiscal agent for the Disabilities Advisory Committee.
A number of non-profit agencies, including the Department of Social Services, Commission on Aging, and Health Department have agreed to be a part of the project. The coordination and consolidation plan will assist the County in leveraging further state funding for transportation systems, and a coordination plan is being required of all Counties by the MTA.
The County is eligible for the funding for four years, but must apply each year. There would be no fiscal impact on the County during the first year of the grant, a 10% County match during the second year, and 25% match in each succeeding year.