Palm Beach County commissioners have given initial approval for an expanding Riviera Beach company to receive a $89,000 economic development grant if it follows through with plans to expand its operations and create 178 new jobs.
The company, whose identity has not been revealed, would receive the $89,000 over eight years. It plans to invest $11.9 million and create 178 new jobs over a five-year period with an average annual wage of $53,484. The company has also pledged to retain 255 existing jobs.
Such economic incentives have drawn some opposition from those who believe the county is paying companies to do what they would do anyway. Commissioners, however, have argued that the incentives help the county recruit and retain businesses that might otherwise leave or never locate their operations here in the first place.
The five-year estimated local economic impact of the Riviera Beach expansion is $342 million.
The Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County released a statement Thursday afternoon saying its Board of Trustees voted overwhelmingly to oppose the referendum because of the board scope of projects the extra tax would cover, particularly cultural ones.
“The county government has strayed too far from what it truly needs,” BIZPAC chairman John R. Smith said. “The belief of most BIZPAC Trustees is that the amount of money proposed to be collected, about $1.4 billion, is too large and the proposed expenditures list has too many ‘wants’ rather than ‘needs.’ There’s no need to increase the sales tax.”
Smith’s statement also said, “this is not the time for a regressive sales tax increase,” which is one that has a greater impact on the poor than the rich.
BIZPAC, along with another business group, the Economic Council, last year endorsed Assistant County Administrator Shannon LaRocque rather than Baker for the county government’s top job. The County Commission overwhelmingly chose Baker last summer.
Baker this year has spearheading an effort by the county, the Palm Beach County School District and the Cultural Council that would have county voters decide whether they want to increase the sales tax in the county from 6 percent to 7 percent.
The projected revenue of $2.7 billion over 10 years would be split among the county government, school district, municipal governments and cultural projects, although proposed ballot language released Wednesday doesn’t mention cultural projects. It does, however, say the tax increase would be to “create local jobs through economic development projects.”
Palm Beach County was one of just six local governments, and the only one in Florida, to get the grant from the USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program, Assistant County Administrator Shannon LaRocque told commissioners Tuesday in an email.
She said the county’s sustainability department has given low-interest loans to 32 local small businesses, resulting in the creation of about 1,540 local jobs over the last five years.