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TIF: A misguided incentive with a troubling CoMo history

Poorly-targeted incentives shouldn't be in CoMo's economic development "toolbox"

COLUMBIA, 1/26/13 (Op Ed) -- To say that Columbia has had any success with TIFs -- even limited success -- is a huge overstatement.  

But that's the conclusion of a Columbia Missourian story today that asked 5th Ward City Council candidates how they viewed increasingly controversial incentives.   From the failure of MAMTEK to the blight/EEZ disaster, none of the three office seekers seems to have been paying sufficient attention to the problems incentives create.  To a person, they support incentives, albeit to different extents. 

TIF -- tax increment financing that freezes property tax increases -- was held up as at least a partial success, which simply doesn't ring true, as this October 2012 investigation in Finance and Commerce magazine suggests   Lack of oversight -- certainly true of Columbia's TIFs -- seems to be the biggest problem in other communities, too. 
 
As the Missourian article noted, the first TIF -- an Odle project -- never took flight.   The second TIF -- the Double Tree hotel near the new Short Street garage -- isn't nearly finished.   And the third TIF -- the Tiger Hotel -- has been a slow moving train wreck ever since it was first approved for the incentive.
 
The Tiger required multiple TIF extensions for its original owners because they couldn't get it renovated, even with the incentive.  
 
And it remains uncompleted under the now 2-year-old ownership of Glyn Laverick.   Laverick's presence here, and in every other community where he's done projects, has been fraught with controversy and upheaval.
 
The Fred DeMarco editorial cited in the Missourian story isn't -- as the story suggests -- merely an acknowledgement that private capital works as well as TIF.    It's a stinging indictment of TIF, for a variety of pointed reasons.
 
Want business incentives? Lower taxes for ALL businesses, not just a poorly-chosen few.
 
 
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