For the past four or five years, you’ve heard your Destin Area Chamber of Commerce Board and staff discuss the need for economic diversification. There are many reasons for this, the most important being that more jobs created over more sectors of industry and professions creates a stronger economy, increases tax revenues for the city and county, and creates a strong, stable business community.
One of the hurdles we could never seem to jump where economic diversification is concerned is the lack of incentives for new or expanding businesses to locate, open, or expand in Destin. Okaloosa County has had incentives, but the economic development ad valorem tax exemption incentive (EDATE) expired in March 2014.
We once again have the opportunity to vote EDATE back into place for Okaloosa County. We also have the opportunity to vote this into place, for the first time, for the city of Destin.
When you go to the polls for the Aug. 26, primary election, you will see this referendum on the ballot. The Chamber’s Board of Directors encourages you to vote yes for the incentive. It’s a vote for job creation, a diversified economy, and a stronger business community.
For the first time in anyone’s memory, EDATE is supported by the boards of the seven leading business organizations in Okaloosa County: Crestview Area Chamber, Destin Area Chamber, Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber, Niceville Valparaiso Chamber, Building Industry Association, Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, and the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County. All of the organizations believe strongly in the need to be competitive in the world of economic development. Our competition isn’t our neighboring counties, but rather the other states in the southeast, all of whom have very aggressive incentives.
Voting yes for jobs via this referendum will give Okaloosa County, Destin, and Fort Walton Beach to enhance incentives at the state level. (If you’re voting in Fort Walton Beach, you have the opportunity to vote yes for that city to implement EDATE, as well.) The incentive will be used if the county commission and/or city councils choose to provide it to a prospect, and they can choose the percentage and length of time of the incentive too. Any prospect or business who receives this incentive will be subject to an audit each year to ensure they have followed the requirements of jobs created, capital investment, and average wages.
Remember, when you go to the polls on Aug. 26, vote yes for EDATE. You’ll be voting to create jobs and build a better community. After all, that’s how we’ll continue to build this world-class community one business at a time!
With wishes for continued success, until next time,
Shane Moody, CCE, FCCP
President & CEO
Destin Area Chamber of Commerce