Smith: Why are county taxpayers subsidizing the proliferation of warehouses? – The daily journalist
Every time I drive a few miles north of my home in the southwest part of Hancock County, it looks like another new industrial building is under construction.
While many lament this and wish all land would remain exactly as it was 50 years ago, this is not possible. Progress is inevitable, and progress is usually a net benefit to our community. The location near I-70, Indianapolis and two interchanges at Mt. Comfort Road and State Road 9 providing easy access. Not only that, but the land adjoining the highway is not as desirable for residential purposes, and so its most valuable use appears to be light industry.
But that’s half the story.
If every warehouse, specific building and distribution center opened on its own in Hancock County, there would be no problem. Within reason, landowners should be able to do whatever they want with their land and find the highest value use, whatever that use is.
But the problem is that almost everyone comes with an “economic development package” – a series of incentives from the county government, often including tax breaks, to entice these businesses to locate here. Not only that, but when these businesses ultimately have to pay taxes when the abatements run out, they are often covered by TIF districts, diverting funds generated from schools, police, and fires to other uses as the county sees fit. .
We as taxpayers are required to improve the roads in the area to accommodate the increase in truck traffic. We are liable for additional property taxes to pay for our schools and utilities to cover TIF abatements and diversions. And what do we get out of it?
Local elected officials who distribute these packages like candy praise the addition of “jobs”, but jobs for whom? A company was considering operating a bus line to the east side of Indianapolis to transport its workers to the company. Pay for warehouse jobs, while in line with the market, is far too low for many workers to afford housing in McCordsville, Fortville and New Palestine, where intense housing demand has driven up the costs.
Given that a significant number of workers do not live in the county and that businesses do not contribute – at least in the near future – to the region’s tax base, why are county taxpayers subsidizing the proliferation of warehouses through abatements, TIFs and ‘economic development packages? That makes no sense. Our taxpayers are essentially subsidizing the jobs of workers in Marion County, while residents of Hancock County drive in the another direction to more lucrative jobs in Indy.
Part of the reason is that we, as a society, tend to fetishize manufacturing and factory-type businesses located in our communities as centers of employment, but despise other types of work – schools, medical offices, restaurants and retail businesses – which make a community tick. These are also more likely to be occupied by local residents.
One of the benefits would be to bring more restaurants and retail to the Mt. Comfort Road corridor to serve these workers and our growing number of residents, but this development has lagged behind the development of the warehouse, partly because the county encourages factory-style development and not local developments.
There is nothing wrong with factories and warehouses, as long as they are net contributors to the community. But if they want to take advantage of Hancock County’s excellent location, they have to pay their own way, including paying for road improvements to handle the extra truck traffic they generate.
There is also nothing wrong with agreeing to be a dormitory community. A sense of community can arise by prioritizing residential development and focusing commercial development on restaurants, retail and other amenities that make our communities better places to live. These things will happen naturally, organically, because market forces, housing starts, and booming school enrollment have shown that there is a strong demand for living in the communities along the Mount Comfort corridor.
Whether commercial, residential or industrial, let growth happen naturally. It will happen, and in a way that benefits both the landowner and the community as a whole. But don’t force it to happen. And please stop subsidizing industrial growth on the backs of taxpayers who bear all the costs and some of the benefits. End the practice of providing tax breaks and economic development packages for industrial projects.
Andrew Black-smith is a economy instructor at New Palestine High School and Vincennes University and the Vice President of the Libertarian To party of Hancock County.
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