City Council: Changes made to economic incentive program

At its Jan. 29 meeting, the Fort Worth City Council adopted a resolution establishing an economic development program and a new program policy, including guidelines and criteria governing certain economic development loans and grants made by the city, as authorized by Chapter 380 of the Texas Local Government Code. City Councilman Brian Byrd for District 3 voted against the Chapter 380 changes.

Council also adopted a resolution stating that the city elects to be eligible to participate in property tax abatement, pursuant to the Texas Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act, Chapter 312 of the Texas Tax Code. They also adopted an updated General Tax Abatement Policy, including guidelines and criteria, governing certain property tax abatements granted by the city.

Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa said the changes will update incentive policies to align them more closely with the city’s economic development strategic plan, and enable Fort Worth to compete more effectively with other cities for private investment.

“The incentive policies are fiscally conservative and oriented toward the achievement of specific goals, such as attracting and expanding technology companies, promoting investment in downtown and innovation districts, and supporting transit-oriented development, among other purposes,” Costa said.

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Speaking before a crowd at the Jan. 24 Real Estate Forecast program, Economic Development Director Robert Sturns said the city is looking to more “strategic about the type of incentives we’re offering.”

Sturns noted that cities like Plano, Frisco and Allen “have taken sales tax dollars, and they’ve tucked that away for economic development.”

When a big project is on the table, they can not only offer abatements and 380 grants, but also offer cash upfront.

“We don’t have that capacity,” he said.

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Chapter 380 authorizes the governing body of a municipality to establish and provide for the administration of one or more programs for making loans and grants of public money, and for providing personnel and services to promote state or local economic development, along with stimulating business and commercial activity.

Chapter 312 authorizes cities to designate tax abatement reinvestment zones and to enter into tax abatement agreements only after the city elects to become eligible to participate and adopts a policy that establishes guidelines and criteria governing its tax abatement program.

A tax abatement policy adopted by a city is effective for two years from the date of adoption. The City of Fort Worth’ s most recent policy expired on June 21.

District 8 Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray made an amendment to the tax abatement adoption that businesses wanting to enter into an agreement must agree to use a minimum of 15 percent of Minority/Women Business Enterprise companies for all construction. Failure to do so or to demonstrate a good faith effort could result in a 10 percent reduction of the eligible abatement.

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Also, under an abatement, an applicant cannot apply for an exception from the M/WBE

In December of 2017, the city council accepted the Economic Development Strategic Plan. As part of the planning process, it was evident that the current tools and resources available in the City of Fort Worth needed to be reconsidered.

Feedback from stakeholders highlighted that the incentives available in Fort Worth were not competitive, and this was supported by research by TIP Strategies.

“City Manager David Cooke and Economic Development Director Robert Sturns submitted this resolution to improve the City’s ability to attract and retain employers willing to invest in the Fort Worth communities they operate in,” District 2 Councilman Carlos Flores said.

“The new Policy would require all projects subject to an Economic Development Program Agreement to make a ‘good faith effort’ to utilize certified M/WBE (Minority/Women Business Enterprise). Staff analyzed peer cities’ approaches to encouraging M/WBE.”