EDC Board to update business incentives

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By Rachel Madison

  The Liberty Hill Economic Development Corporation’s board approved a motion at its last meeting to update and replace the City’s existing incentivization programs with two new programs.

Matt Powell, economic development director for Liberty Hill, said the EDC has several incentivization programs, but they all do the “same thing and are slightly confusing.”

  “The Board requested to get rid of all of them and consolidate [the programs] into two or three easily understood programs, so we came up with two programs,” he added.

  The first program is called the INVEST Incentive Program, which covers things like exterior signs, facades, painting, and other building improvements. Its purpose is to encourage positive business development and redevelopment within Liberty Hill city limits.

  The INVEST program will offer a 50 percent match up to $10,000 in improvements, and a further 25 percent match up to $20,000 in improvements, with the total matched not to exceed $7,500. The program will offer a one-time grant fund that is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

  The second program is called the Booster Incentive Program. This program covers primary jobs as well as construction costs for buildings that will house jobs or boost municipal sales tax. Its purpose is to encourage primary job and sales tax creation within Liberty Hill city limits.

  The per-job incentive will be paid one year after the opening of the business or the expansion of the business. Full-time equivalencies more than $80,000 annually will be at $2,000 per full-time equivalency, while those in excess of $45,000 annually will be at $1,000 per full-time equivalency. Only 40-hour-per-week jobs will count for full-time equivalencies.

  The total maximum award for any one business is $100,000, with no more than $50,000 for jobs and no more than $50,000 for construction.

   Applications for both incentive programs will be reviewed to see if the business has the potential to diversify the local economy, support other local businesses, and align with the City’s preferred redevelopment strategies. In addition, businesses that are able to accomplish the creation of primary jobs, new local sales tax, new local advalorem tax, and bring something new to the city that “enhances quality of life,” will be given priority consideration after applying. The funding cycle for both programs will align with the City of Liberty Hill’s fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30 of the following year.

  “We’ve created a greatly simplified process,” Powell said. “Our intention is not to rewrite the standards for the City, but to create higher standards for incentivization. We want to offer a carrot, not just a stick.”

  Now that the EDC Board has approved the change, it will move on to the City Council for final approval.

  Also at the board meeting, members discussed the appointment of a new director to the board to replace the late Liz Rundzieher, who passed away last month from complications due to cancer.

  “The decision was made [at the last meeting] to not immediately place an appointment, because it felt disrespectful,” Powell said.

  The EDC Board has received about a dozen applications from those interested in filling the position. In addition, two local citizens attended the meeting to express their interest in the position: Tiffany Stillwell and Kathy Canady, who currently sits on the City Council and Parks Board.

  The Board adjourned to an executive session to discuss the appointment, but ultimately decided to delay any action on appointing a new director until their next meeting, citing the need to get to know each of the candidates better before making a decision.

  Lastly, Powell provided an update on the City’s sales tax numbers for the months of April and May. In April, the City earned $150,345, which was up almost 21.68 percent over the previous year. In May, the numbers were down 6 percent from $169,000 in 2020 to $159,000 in 2021.

  “I’d be curious to find out for whatever reason the May numbers were extraordinarily high [in 2020],” Powell said. “If I had to guess, that’s when we hit pandemic mode.”

  Powell added that while the sales tax revenue has had an overall upward trend throughout 2021, he won’t be surprised if for the next few months 2020’s revenues are higher because of the pandemic.

  Jamie Etzkorn and Eric Bailey were absent from the meeting. The next meeting of the EDC Board is set for June 16.

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