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Economic incentives are analyzed by Oklahoma House committee

BY MEGAN ROLLAND Published: September 19, 2012

Economic development experts told lawmakers Tuesday that a variety of incentives and business development tools could benefit from tweaking and study.

The House interim study by the Economic Development Committee was requested by Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs.

“It's a shame that we are not on a level playing field with other states,” Dorman said. “If we could compete with California and Texas just without incentives at play, we certainly offer many of the things that people look for, but so many of these states are providing incentives, it puts us in a tough spot.

“We have to decide what's a wise use of tax dollars, as far as what incentives we're going to provide, what incentives we are going to retool, and how effective those are going to be for job development in Oklahoma.”

Quality jobs

Don Wood, executive director of the Norman Economic Development Coalition, focused on the Quality Jobs incentive, which gives qualified expanding or relocating manufacturing plants 5 percent of the payroll back in quarterly cash payments.

“The Quality Jobs is a good amount of money. It's an adequate amount of money,” he said.

“But when you stretch those payments out over 10 years, that doesn't help the companies in the beginning … and where we are getting beat in some cases is where Texas and Gov. (Rick) Perry will write a check up front.”

Wood said Oklahoma lost a Petco plant to San Antonio because of the cash payment the company was offered.

His suggestion to make Oklahoma more competitive was to use the governor's closing fund to pay companies up front a portion of the money they would ordinarily receive over 10 years.

He said then the companies could pay that money back over time with money they would receive from the state through the Quality Jobs program.

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, raised concerns about protections for the taxpayer if the company fails after receiving an up-front payment.

“One thing good about Quality Jobs is you actually have to have a payroll,” Reynolds said. “There's some legitimate call back provisions that keep us from misusing taxpayer money.”

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