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Wichita City Council members had a workshop discussion Tuesday on updated policies covering incentives provided by the city and Sedgwick County for economic development efforts to retain and grow jobs in the community.
The city's urban development director, Allan Bell, said the current policy was developed in 2004 and updates are needed to deal with changing conditions. He said the emphasis in development projects has shifted from tax relief to cash incentives in recent years.
The city has also had concerns with the evaulation of developers and development projects to determine if they are eligible for tax breaks and incentives.
The updated policy will look at targeting specific industries that will create the most economic benefit to the community. Those industries would be in aerospace, medical, alternative energy and business/professional services fields. The city will continue to look at business activities that will be eligible for incentives, including manufacturing, service sector businesses, transportation, tourism and medical services.
The city will add a new category to the list of business activities that would be eligible for incentive programs, and that deals with speculative industrial buildings.
Bell said there is a high demand for vacant industrial buildings, but Wichita doesn't have many available. He said the new policy would provide a property tax exemption to encourage the development of large "spec" buildings to attract companies to locate or grow here.
Another policy change deals with "clawbacks," which requires a business to repay the city if it doesn't meet its commitments under an incentive program. A business that leaves Wichita would have to repay the last 10 years of abated taxes if it leaves within five years after the final year of the abatement.
For each year after the abatement that the company stays, its repayment would be reduced by 20 percent. Businesses that fail to meet their job creation commitments could still get incentives if they were hampered by an economic downturn.
The policy changes are expected to come back to the city council within the next few weeks for formal approval.