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Incentives part of toolkit for creating Lincoln County jobs

Source: Lincoln Times News Written By: Sarah Melton Monday, July 13, 2009

While local economic officials have often relied on incentives to keep or lure jobs to the area, they are becoming an ever-more-important part of the gam plan during the ongoing economic crisis.

Two months ago, county commissioners approved a request from the Lincoln Economic Development Association, or LEDA, on behalf of GE Security, for an equipment expansion over the next two years.

GE Security opened its 106,000-square-foot facility in Lincoln County Industrial Park last year. Now, it is ready to expand.

The $1.4 million equipment investment qualified for county incentives of $18,802 to be distributed over a five-year period. At least 13 new jobs will be brought to the county.

With an unemployment rate calculated at 14.2 percent by state labor officials in May, every job counts.

“We are delighted our Lincoln County (facility) was chosen for this transition of work,” Phil Wekenmann, plant manager of GE Security, stated in a news release.

“The move to Lincoln County will further drive our operating efficiencies and better serve our customers.”

Another company, The Timken Co., remains undecided about incentives offered from the county. Commissioners recently supported a $51,870 incentive grant for a machinery and equipment expansion to be handed out over five years. The equipment line is part of Timken’s efforts to rehire at least 30 employees.

LEDA expects Timken to make a decision regarding the incentives in a few months.

“Timken has provided many opportunities in the past to help improve the quality of life throughout Lincoln County,” said LEDA board chairman Pete Acker.

“By creating a recovery plan and being able to possibly rehire many employees who have been dedicated through the years is just one more example of how Timken supports our community.”

LEDA Executive Director Barry Matherly said LEDA cannot give the incentives to industrial businesses, but does manage the program and presents information to the Lincoln City Council and county commissioners. Commissioners and council members have the final say with incentive proposals in their respective jurisdictions.

The incentive program dates back to at least 1996, Matherly said, but the latest plan was adopted in 2002.

“In economic development, especially on a big project, there is a lot of expense during startup, and even for existing companies, there is an expense,” Matherly said.

“They are not profitable when you first do that, so the incentives help offset some of those costs you have to incur to make those numbers work better, to make it more of a viable project. That is why all our incentives are for five years.”

Several Lincoln County companies, such as Blum, Magna-Tech Manufacturing, RSI Home Products and Leonard Automatics, have taken advantage of the incentive program in the last year.

“It is designed so that the county only gives the net revenue of the incentive,” Matherly said.

“They are never paying more money than they are giving. The county is always ending up with money to spend at the end of the day, even with giving that incentive over the five years.”

A perk of the incentive program is that the same rules apply to every business. “Everybody gets the same deal,” Matherly said.

“New companies and existing companies get the same deal. We think it’s more fair because it treats everybody the same. When you get to those counties that negotiate, one business could get a better deal than the other.”

To learn more about the incentive program, visit LEDA at www.lincolneda.org.

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