Monday, June 23, 2014

Chairman's Message: What is EDATE?

Hello, Members!

Summer officially arrived this weekend.  What does that mean for you? Well, most immediately it means cookouts are happening everywhere, and the Chamber is no exception.  The Destin Commons is celebrating the opening of its expansion on July 3, with the Smoke on the Coast BBQ and Fireworks Festival.  I hope you will stop by and see all the new stores.  Please be sure and come see YOUR Chamber hard at work in our tent.  We will be smoking Boston butts.  Correction, Shane, Elizabeth, Dena, and Suzy will be doing the cooking - I will not, so it will be safe to eat.

If you have plans to be out of town around the Fourth of July and cannot make the Smoke on the Coast, do not despair.  You have another opportunity to enjoy some Chamber cookout fun.  On Tuesday, July 15, the Chamber will host the Chamber's Great American Cookout at the Chamber's office - again, I am NOT cooking , so come by and eat with confidence.  Thank you to First Florida Bank for sponsoring this sure to be fun event.

Now that your appetites have been (or will be) satiated, I would like to tell you about some other Chamber business.

EDATE – no, it is not what you might think based on that acronym.  EDATE, the Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption, will be on the ballot this August.

WHY? Because the EDATE program expired on March 9 of this year, and Florida law requires that the program go before the voters every 10 years.

WHAT IS THE EDATE PROGRAM ALL ABOUT? It is an economic tool that will allow Okaloosa County, the City of Destin, and Fort Walton Beach to remain competitive in their business recruitment.  EDATE provides an enticement to qualifying new or expanding businesses by giving these businesses an exemption of up to 100% of their property tax for up to 10 years.  The exact amount of the exemption depends on many things, but the three main factors are how much the company will invest in building new facilities and other capital projects, how many new jobs will be created, and the salary that will be paid to its employees relative to the average salary in Okaloosa County.

WHAT EDATE DOES NOT DO:  exempt qualifying companies from taxes payable to the school district, emergency personnel, or water districts.  These taxes will be paid with no adjustment allowed.  Also, the County has the option to remove the exemption if the company does not create the jobs it said it would.  EDATE is not intended to create more competition for existing businesses, but rather to encourage diversification in our business community.

WILL OUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT START GIVING EXEMPTIONS FREELY AND OFTEN? While I certainly do not know the future, if history is any predictor, I do not think so.  The EDATE exemption has only been granted to five companies in the last 10 years.

WHAT ABOUT ALL THE PROPERTY TAXES THOSE NEW OR EXPANDING COMPANIES WILL NOT BE PAYING? In order to get the business to locate here or expand its current operations, it has to provide jobs - those who get these jobs will be paying taxes.  So those who are opposed to EDATE because of concerns that there will be a net loss of taxes, I ask, wouldn't you rather have some additional taxes due to new employees working or existing employees making a higher wage, rather than no taxes from the company because it did not chose to come here?

WHAT HAPPENS IF EDATE IS NOT APPROVED BY THE VOTERS? This area will be at a disadvantage when trying to market itself as a place to open new or expand existing businesses.   And our neighboring communities and states will start to look better and better to the company's bottom-line, although it is true that NO other area could ever visually be as attractive as our EMERALD COAST!

GOOD COMPANY.  If you vote in favor of EDATE you will be in good company.  The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners, the City of Fort Walton Beach, City of Destin, THIS CHAMBER, Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber, Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber, Crestview Area Chamber , the Building Industry Association of Okaloosa and Walton Counties, the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, Northwest Florida Daily News, and the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County are all in favor of continuing the EDATE program.

Until next time,

Amy Perry

2014 Destin Area Chamber Chairman
Pleat, Perry & Ritchie, P.A.

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