Southwest Florida’s News-Press, 5/22/2009
Economic incentive approvals for business relocation and expansion will be fast-tracked by the state under a bill Gov. Charlie Crist signed ceremonially Thursday in Naples.
And Southwest Florida builders cheered another signed bill, one they say levels the playing field when challenging impact fees.
“These bills will expand business in the state … and reduce the overall burden on business, from government,” Crist said.
Crist signed the bills first in Tallahassee before beginning a tour a week after he announced his U.S. Senate campaign. Before appearing in Naples, he flew to St. Augustine and Ocala.
In Naples, Crist held the signing ceremony at Arthrex, a manufacturer of medical devices.
The fast-track bill creates a standard timeline for Enterprise Florida and the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development to process applications for state participation in incentives to bring in new businesses from out of state, and encourage businesses here to expand.
Instead of having 75 business days to process an incentives application, the agencies now will have 22 calendar days.
“Expediting those incentive applications is very important to us,” said Jim Moore, executive director for Lee County’s Economic Development Office.
“In this economy, competition for business relocations is intense,” Moore said. “A quick response from the state is what we need.”
State agencies and county economic development offices work in tandem.
Under the fast-track measure, Gartner Inc.’s recent application for financial incentives to expand its operations in Lee County could have been cleared months earlier, Moore said.
House Bill 7031 also gives incentive-receiving businesses that agree to create jobs in Florida more time to create those jobs if they are experiencing the economic downturn.
Separately, the bill gives a sales tax break to nonresidents who buy a boat in Florida or bring one into the state for repairs.
House Bill 227 focuses on construction and development impact fees, and places the burden of proof on the government to justify the impacts and the fee amounts.
“It levels the playing field, and will make it easier for the industry to challenge impact fees,” said Richard Durling, president of Fort Myers-based Marvin Development, who attended the Naples ceremony.
The bill is just one paragraph, and doesn’t change existing impact fees, said Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, who’s one of the sponsors. However, when fees are challenged in court, under the bill “the government has to prove by a preponderance of evidence, that its fees are fair and correct,” Aubuchon said.
House Bill 485 creates the New Markets Development Program, providing tax incentives for businesses investing in low-income rural and urban locations. Based on a federal program, the new Florida program is expected to stimulate job growth, raise household incomes and improve standard of living for low-income Florida families.
“This will benefit business of every size,” said Dale Brill, director of the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development
Small business was inserted into the bill’s title, Brill said, “because it is the bread and butter of the state.”