Let’s learn from Hammer before we incentivize Barb

Remember “Project Hammer,” the big food manufacturing and warehousing project that ended up unmasked as Ferrara Candy? We offered them a lot of incentives to come here.

The incentives are flowing because that was the only way Ferrara would choose DeKalb for its new facilities over a city in Wisconsin, city leaders told us.

From the backup material for the December 29, 2019 city council meeting, here’s the list of state incentives a qualified project in the enterprise zone is eligible for:

— An exemption on the state sales tax paid on building materials for new construction, expansion, or an interior buildout.

— An Investment Tax Credit of 0.5 percent for any qualified property.

— Assistance in road upgrades from IDOT’s Economic Development Program (EDP). This program provides 50% state funding for locally-owned roads and 100% funding for state-owned routes that serve new or expanding industrial developments. A maximum of $2 million ($30,000 per new job created) is available for a qualified project.

— Natural Gas Tax Exemption for “wheeled” or open market natural gas transactions.”

We’ve come a long way from the Illinois EDGE tax credit. The enterprise zone comes with a really nice package. So why did we have to up the ante on local incentives? Local governments signed a 50% property tax abatement agreement that stretches 15 years instead of the usual 10. And City of DeKalb additionally approved $500,000 to furnish a water main loop and an abatement of 50% of electrical utility taxes for 15 years.

The building is built and the ribbons are cut. Let’s have the list of incentives offered to Ferrara’s site selectors by the State of Wisconsin and the loser Wisconsin town, so we know exactly how DeKalb came out on top.

That way, when it’s time to incentivize the new warehouse build, Project Barb, we’ll have more information to evaluate whether the Hammer package was just right or overkill, and adjust offerings accordingly. We wouldn’t want to give away the farm if we don’t have to.