Sarasota County has $1.1 million suddenly available to used as economic incentives to lure companies here.
That’s mixed news, at best.
The money is available because the County Commission rescinded three incentive grants it had given to companies planning to move their businesses here. The companies were either not moving forward or had changed their plans.
Sometimes companies’ plans are changed for them.
For instance, it’s all too easy to remember Arthur Andersen’s huge Sarasota County data center, which handled the now-defunct accounting firm’s 80,000 employees worldwide. At its peak, the Arthur Andersen unit employed 1,000 people in Sarasota and was the crowning achievement of economic development.
Sarasota County leaders boasted mightily about nabbing that high-tech prize — until the parent company was undone by involvement in the WorldCom and Enron scandals. All that is left of that is the name of the street, Arthur Andersen Parkway. Some of the jobs stayed with Jackson-Hewitt. Many are gone.
We are reminded of that danger with the three recent rescissions.
The first grant rescinded was for $250,000 to Success Group International, a St. Louis firm that planned to move to Sarasota County and create at least 30 jobs. The company went through a restructuring and decided to stay put.
The other two rescinded grants are disturbing even in the lose-lose game of taxpayer giveaways to corporations.
The first was a $650,000 grant to Winslow Marine Products Corp., which was going to relocate its company to Sarasota County from DeSoto County and create 175 jobs. The company never moved forward with a relocation.
And the final rescinded grant was for $200,000 to Creonix, LLC, to move across the line from Manatee County to Sarasota County and create 105 jobs. Creonix changed its plans also.
Last year, at least three Manatee companies — MyUs.com, RND Automation and Engineering and Sunovia Energy Technologies — were lured across the line to Sarasota County with public incentives. In fact, Sunovia was coming back after moving from Sarasota to Manatee. And last year, Manatee lured Mustange Vacuum Systems from Sarasota with grants and state money.
There is something certifiably insane about public policy that actively calls for Sarasota County to offer tax money to private companies to move south from Manatee County while Manatee County offers its tax money to lure Sarasota County companies to move north across University Parkway.
It’s poor public policy to be giving away taxpayer money to private companies. If we are determined to do this, it is bad enough giving tax money to companies from DeSoto County and Tampa Bay. But Manatee County?
Sarasota and Bradenton are one metro area. There is no net community gain in these relocations. They provide an avenue for EDCs to claim successes and local governments to boast about added tax base and jobs at the expense of a neighbor.
Seriously, can somebody please pick up a phone and say, “We won’t lure your companies if you don’t lure ours.” It’s not even a long-distance call.