Cass County officials are proposing a measure that would shorten the incentive-seeking process for local companies, resulting in what they say will be increased efficiency and a more business-friendly environment.
Indiana Code allows companies to seek tax abatements from cities and counties when they expand through new equipment, operations and employees.
Currently, when businesses in Cass County pursue expansions that lead to abatements, the county council has to approve the creation of an economic revitalization area on the company's property before incentives can be considered. The entire process involves a public hearing and takes about three months.
Cass officials are proposing making the entire county an economic revitalization area to streamline those efforts, cut down on paperwork and appeal to the businesses that aid the local economy through their expansions.
Under the current proposal, the entire county would become an economic revitalization area except for incorporated towns like Logansport, Royal Center, Walton, Galveston and Onward.
Cass County Commissioners have been exploring the idea with the legal aid of Ice Miller LLP's Indianapolis office.
Christy Householder, economic development director for the county, briefed the county council on the matter at its Nov. 15 meeting.
"Basically, this is going to take a three-month process down to a one-month process," she said.
Should it be approved, businesses would have to complete paperwork dictating their compliance for abatements once a year, Householder went on to say.
"There'd be one document we'd have to track down," she said.
There are 11 county businesses that will be seeking incentives in the near future, Householder continued, meaning that 11 separate economic revitalization areas would have to be established.
The council approved the proposal unanimously.
"All this does is allows tax abatements to be given without having to do documentation every time and a public hearing," Cass County Council President George Stebbins said of the proposal.
Cass County Councilman Phil Rains expressed his support for the measure as well.
"It gets the county ready for growth," he said.
A potential downside to the measure discussed at the meeting was the fact that it wouldn't allow council members to keep as close of tabs on local businesses. It was quickly dismissed, however, after council members determined the measure's benefits were greater.
"You're not giving up anything unless you want to micromanage," said John Hillis, attorney for the council.
A public hearing on the proposal is being scheduled for next month, which will be followed by a final vote on the matter.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him: @PharosMAK