REDI, city advisory board representatives discuss EEZ with neighborhood delegates

Monday, October 8, 2012 | 11:49 p.m. CDT; updated 8:27 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 9, 2012

*This story has been changed to indicate that the Enhanced Enterprise Advisory Board will meet next week but that it will be a few weeks before it submits proposals to the Columbia City Council and the Boone County Commission for approval.

COLUMBIA — Residents of neighborhoods included in proposed boundaries for two enhanced enterprise zones met with representatives of Regional Economic Development Inc. and the chair of a city advisory board Monday night to ask questions and offer their feedback on the latest version of the plan.

REDI board chairman Dave Griggs and executive vice president Bernie Andrews led the informational meeting. The 18 attendees included City Council members Gary Kespohl and Michael Trapp as well as representatives from five of the 15 neighborhood associations that were invited.

Griggs and Andrews explained the newest version of the enhanced enterprise zones and the benefits of EEZ to Columbia. Board members expect that EEZ will:

  • Increase competitive business recruitment and job creation in Columbia.
  • Allow Columbia to compete with other cities in Missouri for business bids.

    Currently, there are 122 EEZs in Missouri. In relation to cities of Columbia's size: Springfield has four, St. Joseph has one, Independence has two, Jefferson City has one, and Kansas City has three.

  • Be used as a significant tool to support manufacturers currently operating in Columbia.

The Enhanced Enterprise Advisory Board has been working since late spring to revise a proposal for creating the zone or zones, which would make some businesses that expand or locate within them eligible for state and local tax incentives.

A previous board was dismantled in May after the Columbia City Council heard considerable opposition from the public to a previous recommendation that would have placed a large percentage of the city and parts of Boone County in an EEZ. Opponents decried the declaration of blight that accompanies an EEZ, and they worried it would harm property values and prompt the city to use eminent domain to acquire private property for redevelopment.

The new advisory board has worked with REDI to produce maps for two proposed EEZs known as the north and south zones.

  • The north zone would encompass the Route B corridor, industrial areas east of Range Line Street, much of Business Loop 70 and several neighborhoods, including Parkade, Ridgeway, Douglass, North-Central and Derby Ridge. A report from REDI indicates the north zone is home to several manufacturing plants that have closed or experienced significant layoffs since 2005.
  • The south zone would include LeMone Industrial Park, the Discovery Ridge Research Park, the Crosscreek development, Lenoir Woods Senior Center, the Shepard Hills subdivision on Timberhill Road and the High Hills mobile home community.

*The EEZ Advisory Board will continue to discuss the zone boundaries and the types of businesses that will be eligible for tax incentives. It's next meeting is 5 p.m. Oct. 17 in Conference Room 1B of the Daniel Boone City Building. The board's recommendations will be subject to public hearings and the approval of the Boone County Commission and the Columbia City Council  City Council. Board member Jeremy Root said he doesn't expect commission or council action until after the Thanksgiving holiday.  

Residents were invited to voice concerns throughout Monday night's meeting. One major concern was distrust between the community and the city. Several attendees referred to the Sharp End urban renewal project of the 1960s as the cause for their distrust. 

"I'm feeling like we need to collectively talk about the history of displacement," North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association President Pat Fowler said. "We have that history, and it sits in the middle of every conversation we have."

Another concern Fowler addressed was the longevity of employment created by the EEZ businesses. Each business in Columbia would be required to hire 10 new employees, offer health insurance and pay for half the cost and pay 75 percent of the county average wage, which is currently $32,565. That equals about $24,500 annually.

Fowler's concern was that families will have difficulty living on less than $40,000 a year. She argued that public assistance would become a necessity and that a long-term plan for upward mobility would serve the community better.

There has to be a way that a city can create jobs and raise wages while not displacing people, Fowler said.

Residents also asked for data on other cities and their economic progress since their creation of EEZs. Several residents suggested that REDI provide more information about the process of establishing zones.    

EEZs are established through the Missouri Department of Economic Development and must meet not only the requirements for a blight declaration but also certain demographic criteria. At least 60 percent of the residents of an EEZ must have incomes below 90 percent of the county or state median income, and residents collectively must have a level of unemployment greater than or equal to that of the county or state.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.




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Tracy Greever-Rice October 9, 2012 | 12:02 a.m.

If it's truly about manufacturing, why include the long, long list of NAICS codes that have nothing whatsoever to do with manufacturing? Why should we incentivize the construction NAICs for example? These businesses are already here, and already growing as the real estate and building industry recovers? Will construction businesses leave CoMo and turn down projects if they don't get a tax break based on blighting other people's property? I think not.

This has been sold to us as a necessary program to support economic base development, yet the included NAICs codes are full of service and other local businesses that simply revolve dollars around the local economy. And for this people's property will be blighted?

Wake up folks! It's not just the geography of the zones, it's the types of businesses included that we need to pay attention to. This particular program and the way it's being structured in CoMo has nothing to do with economic base development and everything to do w/ a sweetheart deal for the local development community.

(Report Comment)
David Sautner October 9, 2012 | 1:50 p.m.

Tracy-Greever Rice said:
"...everything to do w/ a sweetheart deal for the local development community."
Only those members of the development community that have memberships with REDI.
If 60 percent of the residents of an EEZ blight designation must have incomes below 90 percent of the county, while yet each EEZ business created in Columbia is required to pay 75 percent of the county wage, then the "job creation" bulldozes neighborhoods by means of a cruel and discriminatory gauge (sounds like a war on the poor to me) while at the same time re-creating the same situation by offering low-wage jobs that would in turn create more "blighted" zones. What a great idea!!

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice October 9, 2012 | 6:33 p.m.

Yes, David, you are correct, sir. To illustrate using 2011 ACS data for median household income and 2011 small area estimates data for average county wage, we get:

BoCoMo Median Household Income: $46,596 (& this is skewed low by the college-aged population).

Ninety percent of that is $41,936. So, any neighborhood where 60% of households earn at or less than $42k a year are considered in 'pervasive poverty' and subject to being blighted and where redevelopment is encouraged - regardless of the wishes of the neighborhoods and community. And the corollary is worth stating aloud too, just so we're all on the same page, as much as 40% of the household earn above $42k - and yet will be subjected to the same blighting...

The average county wage in BoCoMo in 2011 was $37,147, 75% of which is $27,860. So, we're going to call $42k households blighted and in pervasive poverty, so we can reward business with tax breaks (all kinds of businesses - not just manufacturing or other basic businesses) for creating - a minimum of 2 - $27k a year jobs...

Why are we rewarding the creation of poverty-level jobs?

Just to provide a little context, in 2011, the US poverty level was $22,350 for a family of four, putting the $27k jobs at 125% of the poverty line for the same sized family. A $27k job would qualify dependent children for free (not just reduced) lunches at school. That same job supporting a household with children 5 and younger would be eligible for 100% coverage under the MoHealthNet program.

While on the blighting of the working class end of things, children in $42k households are not qualified for the USDA reduced lunch program, though the cut-off point for that program (for this hypothetical family of four) is just over $41k. So, what does this mean??? It means many working poor, near poor households, including those who have done the right thing by investing in residential property, paying their taxes, going to work, will have their homes blighted to reward employers for creating jobs that will keep them near poverty.

This particular economic development program may be a lot of things, but it is NOT a jobs program. That is all.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin October 9, 2012 | 9:04 p.m.

So they've gone from blighting 60% of the city to blighting what -- 45%? Including, of course, many residential neighborhoods.

By hook or by crook, our crooks in power here are going to get a blight decree for use with eminent domain, whether by this disgraced beast or by the City Charter amendment now being facetiously termed "Condemnation in 3 Easy Steps."

The public hates this EEZ thing and yet they keep pushing and pushing it. No wonder alternatives are finally springing up like alternative visioning.

People are fed up with being ignored in favor of outdated, poorly-conceived plans.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders October 9, 2012 | 10:02 p.m.

All they are doing is stalling until the inevitable blight actually arrives. This is all a setup for the massive federal funding that is going to turn all cities/counties/states into debt slaves of the not federal, not reserve system, and its partner in crime, Rome on the Potomac.

(Report Comment)

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