WARSAW — A recent study on Tax Increment Financing districts has the Kosciusko County Redevelopment Commission feeling optimistic about local economic opportunities.
During the regular meeting, held Thursday, July 14, George Robertson presented a summary of a study by the University of Southern Indiana Center for Applied Research, which gathered data from TIF districts statewide.
Robertson preceded his presentation by giving a brief economic update. He noted the county has seen hundreds of new jobs and $16 million in capital investment.
“I don’t know how many more expansions we’re going to see this year,” he said.
He also noted that current economic circumstances are what he called “cautious.”
“This is what we call a very cautious economy for a lot of reasons,” he said. “One is that Europe seems to be imploding. China’s economy is not recovering … as you can see, corporate America, CEOs, they’re a little cautious.”
He added that there are several prospects looking at Kosciusko County, and that the county is one of three finalists for one of them. Other positives, he said, are that the county and the city of Warsaw have approved the Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation and have joined the Northeast Regional District.
“We’re getting a lot of benefits from that, more than I thought we would when we joined,” he said. “We’re getting as many prospects out of the regional group as we’re getting out of the state of Indiana.”
He added that one blog even named Warsaw among the top 25 places to spend a weekend.
As far as TIFs, Robertson stated he feels previous studies may be poor representatives, especially taking into account the recession, which began in 2007. He noted that, by 2010, Kosciusko County had gone from 38,000 people employed to 33,000.
“The recovery was more painful even for us than the recession,” he said. “And that was true for a lot of manufacturing in Indiana. All that data from that period is skewed.”
The USI study, he said, contains more than 75 pages and takes into account conditions before, during and after the recession.
“They collected more data than has ever been collected in TIFs in the state of Indiana and they collected current data, as opposed to moving backwards,” Robertson said.
He added, “What they discovered was, yes, everybody lost out during the recession, but the only counties that rapidly rebounded and got back to their high numbers were counties with TIFs. You look at that context, you see the real value of a TIF district.”
A question came up as to what tools are currently available for attracting prospects. Robertson replied that training dollars are a major draw but are hard to obtain except in certain circumstances.
The Milford TIF also came up, a 200-acre parcel of land next to the railroad tracks that several prospectives have looked at, including a facility that burns garbage to make energy; however, that facility was not approved.
To get an idea of how best to move forward, the commission plans to contact the various communities in Kosciusko County to see where they are going and what their interests may be. They also plan to contact legislators and to invite Robertson to the August meeting for further discussion.
- The commission, meeting the first time this year, elected officers as follows: Bill Warren, president; Henry DeJulia, vice president; Bruce Woodward, secretary; Jon Garber, treasurer; and Max Courtney, member at-large.
- The next meeting is set for 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, at the county courthouse.