By Richard Danielson and Bill Varian, Times Staff Writers 

In Print: Tuesday, August 2, 2011

TAMPA — Last week’s confusion over a $1.2 million incentive package for Pricewaterhouse­Coopers had local officials talking Monday about creating a process that is more clear, consistent and unhurried.

“This last one did not go as smoothly as everyone would like,” said Bob McDonaugh, Tampa’s acting economic development administrator.

So officials met to discuss ways to refine the process for the future.

On July 25, several days after the Tampa City Council and Hillsborough County Commission approved the incentives, a top PricewaterhouseCoop­ers executive said the firm never considered moving its operating center out of Tampa.

That disclosure surprised several council members and commissioners who said they were led to believe that a then-unnamed financial services firm needed incentives to keep 1,633 jobs in Tampa.

State law allows the identities of companies to remain confidential while local officials negotiate incentives, but PricewaterhouseCoop­ers identified itself as the company after the subsidies were approved.

At Monday’s meeting, officials from the city and county met with executives from the nonprofit Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and came up with at least four potential improvements:

• Giving city and county elected officials the same information in a standard format.

• Putting such requests on regular meeting agendas, giving elected officials time to review them in advance, instead of walking them on to the agendas just a day or two before the meeting as happened with the PricewaterhouseCoopers package.

• Having a staff member from the Economic Development Corp. on hand to answer questions. (EDC representatives were at the County Commission’s meeting, but didn’t speak.)

• Having the Economic Development Corp. provide elected officials with a briefing on the economic development process and how it works.

Those steps would help, City Council member Mary Mulhern said, but they wouldn’t have necessarily given elected officials the information they should have had on this project.

“We still don’t know whether they were planning to move or not,” said Mulhern, who has said that elected officials were misled.

Mulhern said local officials also need to work through other questions, including whether they should even offer incentives to companies for retaining existing jobs — as opposed to creating new ones — and whether the identities of the companies should remain confidential.

The City Council has asked its staff for a report on the process used to consider the incentive package. On Wednesday, the County Commission is expected to discuss the Pricewaterhouse­Coopers project at the request of Commissioner Sandra Murman.

After Monday’s meeting, county chief financial administrator Bonnie Wise would not say whether there will be a recommendation to proceed with the subsidy.

“Part of the problem is that we’re still under a confidentiality agreement right now,” she said.

“I think where we ended up is: This is still a good project, still a good company, good jobs.”

McDonaugh agreed, saying the proposal requires Pricewat­erhouseCoopers to invest in a new building with an estimated cost of $78 million to receive the incentives. Not only that, but the particulars of the incentives will come back in a detailed agreement for another vote.

The firm plans to move into the building, being constructed in West Shore, in 2013.

McDonaugh noted the city wouldn’t pay any incentives until 2017.

“We would have three or four years of property taxes before spending the first nickel,” he said. “The taxpayers are protected.”

Without saying the process broke down in this case, Wise said she expects officials involved in Monday’s meeting will sit down again at some point.

“We all want to coordinate and communicate better, which I think is always a good thing,” she said. “There’s always room for improvement.”

City of Tampa wants Jobs Program

Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Times article on the job creation program:

Tampa council member wants city version of county jobs program

By Richard Danielson, Times Staff Writer

In Print: Sunday, May 22, 2011


TAMPA — Now that Hillsborough County has launched a program to help small businesses that create jobs, new Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione wonders: Why not us?

“Our smaller businesses do need the help,” said Montelione, whose private-sector experience includes working with her fiance’s three-person construction firm. “The challenge is finding the funds.”

Council members are expected to discuss the idea at a workshop on Thursday, though Montelione already has brought it up with members of Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s administration. City officials need to look at the idea in more detail before deciding whether to add it to Buckhorn’s economic development agenda, Tampa economic development administrator Mark Huey said..

“The city certainly could do a program like that,” Huey said. “It’s really a matter of resource priority and would that be the best thing for us to do at this time, given the economic development challenges and opportunities that we have.”

Hillsborough County started its Small Business Job Creation Program this spring as commissioners discussed a way to exempt some property taxes for businesses that expand or move to the county. (Tampa has a similar property tax exemption program, approved by voters in March, in the works.)

Along with the property tax breaks, Commissioner Sandy Murman was interested in giving incentives to the smallest businesses that might be on the verge of adding employees.

“With unemployment hovering around 11, 12 percent, there’s obviously a great need for jobs in our community,” said Gene Gray, the county’s director of economic development.

Miami-Dade has a similar program, but there’s nothing else like Hillsborough’s program in the Tampa Bay area, Gray said.

Hillsborough’s program pays companies with 10 or fewer workers partial wage reimbursements for adding up to three more employees.

To receive the reimbursement, the businesses must keep the new employees for at least three months. At the end of that time, the companies can get half of what they paid their new hires, up to $3,900 per worker.

To qualify, the companies must be based in the county, must have been in business for at least two years and must agree to participate in county programs designed to foster the growth and health of small businesses. Their new employees also must be county residents.

To pay for the program, Hills­borough officials identified $500,000 that had been set aside in a pool for industry promotion.

As of mid May, 26 businesses had submitted applications for 59 new employees. Gray said the program has the funds to provide partial reimbursement for about 200 employees.

Along with the jobs program, Montelione said, her priorities include helping save the city money by getting city-owned facilities to switch over to energy-efficient technology.

“We have to bring down costs,” and being more energy-efficient is one way to do that, she said. “It used to be, ‘Oh, you’re green. You’re sustainable. You’re a tree hugger.’ No, it’s about saving money.”

As a start, Montelione said she was pleased to see the city install a motion-sensitive control for her office lights. The bad news: It doesn’t turn off the lights for half an hour.

“I don’t need my office lit for half an hour after I’ve left it,” she said. “Ten minutes is probably even too long.”

As for the jobs program, “It’s no surprise that funding is very tight around here,” Montelione said, “so I don’t know how we can make it work, but if we can find a way …”


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