by Bradley Parsons
A self–described better listener than talker, the newest commissioner on the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission advocates a similar policy for words and economic incentives: use them only when necessary, and make sure they are put to good use.
The City Council has approved Mayor John Peyton’s nomination of Auchter Company president Brad Glass to the commission. Glass will fill Thomas Petway’s unexpired term until June 30, of next year, then serve his own term until June 30, 2006.
As a member of the mayor’s JEDC transition team, Glass became acquainted with the commission’s strengths and weaknesses and helped recommend structural changes intended to streamline its operation.
The transition team recommended removing the Downtown Development Authority from the incentive approval process and said the City needed standard economic performance measurements. The criteria would determine which projects receive the incentives and then measure the effectiveness of those incentives.
The JEDC made an initial step toward measured incentives with its approval of Riverplace Properties’ San Marco Place condominium project. The deal’s unique structure calls for City incentives only if the developers need help to offer residences at downtown’s market rate.
The deal drew praise from City planners and developers as a possible model for future incentive packages. Glass counts himself among the supporters.
“I really like the way they structured the deal for the San Marco condos; only giving the incentives if they fall short of targets rather than giving the money up front,” said Glass. “The money is targeted, and it’s limited. You’re not just giving
out a blank check. That’s
the way the JEDC should
After being driven for years by incentives, Glass said he thought the downtown market was approaching self–sufficiency. The downtown market, he said, could soon attract business relocation even without the promise of City money. Glass pointed to the Auchter Company’s relocation as evidence. Glass didn’t take a dollar to move his 114 employees and $100 million–a–year business.
A more defined, less conspicuous role will always exist for incentives in Jacksonville, said Glass. They allow the City to rev up activity in underperforming areas or sectors, he said.
“Incentives are always going to be necessary to a certain extent; they’re a major ingredient in a city like Jacksonville’s recipe for growth,” said Glass. “You can use them to entice particularly attractive companies to come and to stay, and you can use them to target certain areas that need economic stimulus. It would be tough to do without incentives.”
For instance, Glass said he supports some form of replenishment for the Historic Downtown Trust Fund. Without incentives, Glass said, developers would be unlikely to take on costly historical renovations.
Glass said he has a “vested interest” in Jacksonville. The Sandalwood High and University of North Florida graduate said he’ll be careful with tax dollars because he’s contributed quite heavily himself to the public coffers.
Already a symphony board member, Chamber of Commerce trustee and a member of several other civic organizations, Glass nonetheless pledged to devote inordinate time to his JEDC duties.
“I was asked by the mayor to serve, and I consider that a real honor,” said Glass. “I can guarantee that I’m going to spend more time than normal to try to really immerse myself in the process.”