Companies that want to expand or move to Sarasota may be discouraged when they find out they’ll be slapped with a road impact fee that can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a large manufacturing plant.
“The bigger the building, the larger the fee,” says Joan McGill, the Sarasota Economic Development Corporation’s vice president of business development.
That’s why Sarasota County started an impact-fee mitigation program a few years ago to defray those costs for companies that bring better-than-average jobs to the area. “We want to encourage high-wage, high-skill jobs,” says McGill.
To qualify, companies have to be “export-oriented,” which means they sell beyond Sarasota County, create quality jobs at the average wage or more (now $34,849), locate in business parks, light industrial and other targeted areas, and are able to document all of the above.
“It’s better for companies [to look into the requirements] early because there’s a lot of detail,” says McGill. Companies can apply for the mitigation 60 days before or, at the latest, 60 days after obtaining their certificate of occupancy.
McGill says it’s very difficult for companies to get all of their impact fees mitigated because of the job creation requirement. The application is only two pages, but “it takes time,” she says. “The county is very careful that the proposal is accurate and documented. The documents are reviewed by the county attorney and a number of other people.”
McGill admits companies have found the process cumbersome, so she is working with the county on ways to streamline it.
Companies have to pay the impact fee when they receive their certificate of occupancy, and then later they get credited back by meeting criteria in one or more of the following categories:
1. Job growth. Companies will be credited $1,000 for every new job they create, up to 50 percent of the impact fee. For example, if the impact fee is $100,000 and a company creates 50 new jobs, the company will be credited $50,000. New businesses have to create a minimum of 10 jobs that pay at least the average wage. Existing businesses have to show job growth within two years.
2. Capital investment. Companies may be credited for up to 15 percent of their impact fee for capital investment under $3 million and up to 25 percent for capital investment of more than $3 million. This includes machinery and any capital investment that’s vital in doing the work of the business, says McGill. “You have to show documentation on the dollars spent on the project,” says McGill.
3. Job quality. In order to qualify for a 20 percent credit on their impact fees, companies must pay the average wage of the county, 90 percent of their employees must be full time, they must provide a safe work environment and they must contribute at least 50 percent toward health insurance.
4. Child care. Companies that provide on-site care or have a referral program in place can receive a 5 percent credit.
For more information, visit www.edcsarasotacounty.com/subpages/Road_Impact_Fee_Mitigation.asp.