County leaders are trying to power-up Kern’s economic development and bring big businesses, better jobs and a healthier economy into the region.
On Tuesday the Kern County Board of Supervisors will vote on a plan that would increase tax breaks and remove tax credit caps for businesses that can pour jobs and economic vitality into local communities.
The idea, part of a larger Advance Kern plan, was cooked up in discussions between the county, stakeholders and the Kern Economic Development Corp., said Kern County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop.
“There was discussion about changing the way we market our community,” he said. “It started as a conversation between the county, KEDC and area stakeholders like Tejon Ranch.”
Richard Chapman, president of the KEDC, said people are tired of other counties like Fresno bringing in major businesses while Kern County sits out in the cold.
“We have to level the playing field,” Chapman said.
He pointed to Amazon’s recent decision to locate a fulfillment center in Fresno. Over 30 years, he said, that business is expected to bring in more than $3 billion in wage taxes to Fresno County. But it only cost the county $30 million in tax credits over the same time period, Chapman said. Kern County has a $500,000 cap on tax credits, he noted.
The proposal Kern County supervisors will consider Tuesday would eliminate those caps and power up tax credits for businesses looking to locate facilities here, Alsop said.
“It puts us on a competitive level with Fresno, which has been kicking our butt, bringing in good job-creating businesses,” he said. “It puts us way ahead of where most people are in the state.”
It will also add several industries that can be targeted by Kern County economic development efforts, including destination retail operations like Tejon Ranch’s Outlets at the base of the Grapevine as well as e-commerce facilities.
Chapman said high-tech industries would also be sought.
The key to making the deal work out for Kern County is the requirement in the plan for the businesses to bring good jobs to Kern County.
Such possible arrangements would be on a case-by-case basis and would depend on what the business is bringing to Kern County.
Chapman said the tax breaks wouldn’t be considered for a business until it proves it will create the jobs and the tax revenue Kern County needs.
“We believe this is a smart economic policy that is going to be a game changer for Kern County," Alsop said. "For the first time ever we are prioritizing full-time job creations at better than living-wage rate.”
Kern County coffers and those of the City of Bakersfield have been struggling since oil industry revenues took a nosedive two years ago.
Action, county leaders say, is needed.
“We need to create the next generation of businesses,” Chapman said.