Lacombe County explores development incentives

Tax breaks for new businesses among ideas to be considered

Lacombe County is exploring incentives to attract new businesses to hamlets.

County commissioner Terry Hager said Mirror is an example of a county hamlet that is seen as a future growth area suitable for additional industrial and commercial development.

“We just thought what can we do to try to promote and encourage some economic development in the east end of the county,” Hager said.

Work has just begun on looking at potential incentives. One possible investment incentive gives a new commercial and industrial business a property tax break.

It could take the form of a “graduated discount” that would see businesses given a reduced tax bill, increasing in stages over a period of years to the full amount. The idea behind it is to give businesses help getting up and running by reducing early costs.

“We don’t have anything yet. But that’s one of the concepts — when we did some preliminary investigation — that is out there,” he said.

Before any incentives are taken to council for approval county staff will undertake a cost analysis.

“If we do this, whether we are going to increase our tax base on a longer-term basis will be one of the things that we need to consider.”

Hager expects to report back to council in late summer or early fall.

County planner and development officer Jesse McPhail said a development strategy is a key part of the county’s recently approved Municipal Development Plan and the incentive idea fits that goal.

McPhail said an incentive could be calculated on assessment or taxation.

“That is one of the options we’re looking,” he said. “It would have to satisfy certain criteria, obviously, and we’ll take it on a case-by-case basis.”

Besides tax breaks, there are other incentives that have been used elsewhere such as grants.

Stepping up promotion efforts and providing other non-financial supports for businesses are other approaches.

Lacombe County is a member of the Central Alberta Economic Partnership, which takes a regional approach to attracting new businesses.

“That definitely gets Lacombe County’s name out there for potential businesses to establish here,” said McPhail.

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