Lacombe County giving a development incentive program another try

Program to boost development through tax breaks started in 2017 had no takers so far

Lacombe County wants to spread the word about a development incentive pilot project that has had no takers so far.

Council approved the Development Incentive Grant program in September 2017 in an effort to attract new businesses and residents to the hamlet of Mirror.

The county believes the best way to boost economic development, while protecting agricultural areas, is to steer development toward hamlets, which already have the services, infrastructure and land to support new businesses.

As an incentive, the county proposed giving new commercial and industrial businesses a tax break. New businesses could apply for a 100 per cent rebate on their property taxes in the first year of operation.

The following year, they could apply for a 90 per cent rebate, with the possible rebate dropping by 10 per cent each year.

Businesses building additions could apply for a rebate on the additional taxes their expansion created.

It was the first time the county had tried something along these lines, which was supported by $5,000 set aside by council.

However, the three-year pilot project is due to expire in September and no businesses have taken the county up on its incentive offer, even though three businesses would have been eligible.

In a report to council, planning staff said on talking with Mirror business owners, it was apparent that many were unaware of the program, did not understand it or were intimidated by the application process.

“In addition to these issues, the current economic climate must be factored in as well,” says the report.

County staff have recommended expanding promotion efforts.

Branding the incentive program, supporting it with brochures and backing it up with more social media and website promotion with video and graphics was recommended.

Also, county staff will reach outside the county’s borders to pitch the merits of their program to the Central Alberta Economic Partnership and Boomtown Trail.

Council agreed to support a new branding strategy and advertising campaign costing $500 to get the message out about the program.

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