The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a new economic development policy for the county that widens the number of industries that can get tax incentives for bringing new businesses to the county and would remove the cap on those tax credits.

The hope is that the change will make Kern County more competitive in the high-stakes game of luring businesses, new facilities and jobs to Kern County.

Richard Chapman, president of the Kern Economic Development Corp., lauded the plan, which his organization helped gestate.

“This will get our community on the short list” for new business development, he said.

Chapman said the effort is not just about new businesses.

“This is for local companies that are looking to expand or stay in Kern County,” he said.

Kern County Board of Trade official Teresa Hitchcock said benefits to the area from a major new business would be significant, pointing to the recent success by Fresno County in landing an Amazon fulfillment center, a move that will cost Fresno $30 million in tax credits and bring in $3 billion in economic development.

“The return on investment is significant,” Chapman said.

Kern’s proposed tax incentive plan got support from the Kern County Taxpayers’ Association, the Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government and the Cal State Bakersfield Small Business Development Center.

“The investment of $30 million to generate $3 billion is a no-brainer,” said attorney Phil Rudnick, who was at the meeting asking supervisors let him establish a music festival venue at Interstate 5 and 7th Standard Road.

Joe Renfo of Tejon Ranch Company was also supportive.

“It’s a very strong message out to the public that we are open for business,” he said.

Body cameras

Supervisors also approved a $135,000 federal grant for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department that, accompanied by a $135,000 match from county jail realignment funds, will put body cameras on Kern County Sheriff’s deputies in metropolitan Bakersfield.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood said that pilot deployment on deputies in Wasco and in county jail facilities have triggered a dramatic decrease in the number of excessive force claims against the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

Either the claims are debunked as soon as the claimant sees the video or the claim is verified quickly by the video, Youngblood said.

“Less complaints equal less lawsuits equal less cost to the general fund,” Youngblood said.

The cameras have also been used by Sheriff’s office supervisors to identify training issues that need to be addressed, he said.

“This is a great thing for the community and your department,” said Supervisor Zack Scrivner.

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