City, county help businesses, even if just a bit

Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis hands a personal business tax refund to Cory Carlson of B&H Sports during a Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday. The county is delivering 2,141 refund checks totalling about $452,000 to area businesses.

Bruce Milyard probably could have found the money to install power lines underneath his Corner Square development at Patterson Road and First Street.

But he appreciates the nearly $260,000 the city of Grand Junction covered for the project, part of a $4 million infrastructure installation at the site.

The city’s help wasn’t necessarily make or break for Milyard’s development, but it covered enough to make him feel the city was on his side.

“Is $260,000 significant? Yeah, I still consider it a lot of money,” Milyard said.

Although not everyone succeeds in getting financial assistance, it’s common for local government to offer growth incentives when the economy sputters and business and development opportunities shrink. City of Grand Junction Public Works and Planning Director Tim Moore said local government would want to help a business expand or build here for a number of reasons.

“It could be construction dollars at use, sales and use tax at work,” he said. “Long-term, obviously, it brings jobs to the area.”

Recent small-scale stimulus offers for local businesses include Mesa County’s decision to partially refund business personal property and equipment taxes and the elimination of all planning and development fees. The city of Grand Junction has deferred development fees so they can be paid when a project is complete, and a City Council subcommittee has been formed to review business and development requests for discounts or other help from the city to get a project done.

The fees and refunds aren’t often major investments. The largest refund check for taxes on equipment and property owned by a Mesa County business is $533. But every little bit helps, Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis said.

“Every tax we have is just a little bit. It adds up,” Meis said. “Everyone can talk about the dollar amount being just a little bit, but every little bit helps.”

Some local government incentives are given to any business that qualifies. Others are offered on a limited basis.

The Grand Junction City Council voted in June to use reserve funds to pay $240,700 in fees for Steve and Kevin Reimer, the local brothers building a Springhill Suites by Marriott on the northwest corner of Third and Main streets. The South Dakota-based developers of a Candlewood Suites being built near 24 Road heard about the decision and asked for similar treatment, according to Moore.

“We agreed to defer the fees for five years, but they wanted better than that,” Moore said during a City Council retreat in July.

Moore said the council subcommittee looks at how much a project meets goals of the city’s new comprehensive plan when it considers requests for assistance. Whether the business is local or from out of town, large or small doesn’t factor into the decision, he said.

Not all businesses ask for help. Some businesses, such as American Furniture Warehouse and Cabela’s, decided to move into town without much help, Moore said, adding he hasn’t noticed a drastic upswing in requests for fee assistance.

“What we’re seeing is folks using a number of tools to continue to grow and expand in Grand Junction. I don’t think we’re seeing any tool used more than another,” he said.

For those who do want help, Meis said he isn’t sure how long certain perks will be available. Anything with a fiscal note is subject to change each time a new budget is written. He has requested that the county abstain from charging select development fees at least until the end of his term in office, which ends in two years.

For Steve Reimer, having fees paid didn’t become the deciding factor in going forward with the Springhill Suites project, but it gave him one more reason to go ahead with his plans.

“It helps when you feel like you’re not fighting every step of the way,” Reimer said. “Anything that offers assistance or helps you feel someone is on your side to ride out the risk is certainly helpful.”

Having an ally is nice, but it takes more than government assistance to make a business go forward with a new project or hiring, Reimer said.

“At the end of the day, it depends how you feel about the future,” he said.


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