Milton becomes more attractive to new businesses and jobs

Published on March 08, 2013 with No Comments

Businesses can find plenty of incentives to move into the City of Milton, which offers significant breaks on taxes and fees for companies that add jobs and improve property.

The incentives cover the downtown Community Redevelopment Area as well as areas along highways 87, 89 and 90, all busy arteries with potential for growth. The goal is to encourage retail shops, lodging, restaurants and other business. Many other cities have begun offering incentives to stimulate business as they work to create jobs and make their communities more attractive to residents and visitors.

In addition to the existing incentives, Milton now offers breaks to tourism-related businesses that open in downtown Milton.

The incentives are part of Milton’s efforts to encourage business in the city limits, where population is growing. These efforts are in addition to Santa Rosa County’s work to draw more companies to three industrial parks that are outside the city limits but “within rock-throwing distance” of Milton, as City Manager Brian Watkins put it. Growth in the industrial parks would mean more revenue for Milton, which provides utility services to them.

The incentives in the CRA and along highways 87, 89 and 90 offer discounts of up to 75 percent on “impact fees” for water, sewer and stormwater service and up to 75 percent on property taxes for five years. The plan is open to both small sites and tracts of 10 acres or more. Those eligible to apply include new businesses and companies relocating from within Milton as well as from outside the city limits.

The city is not obligated to provide the incentives; businesses that may hurt the city’s environmental quality, for example, are ineligible.

The applicant must show that he is increasing the property value or creating five or more new jobs which pay at least the average Santa Rosa County wage. Each project would be monitored by city officials and include an updated report each year to verify that the business has kept its promises.

The incentives are a valuable tool for stimulating growth, but the applicants must meet the standards set by the City Council.

“This approach will allow the city the flexibility necessary to satisfy the unique needs and concerns of each applicant and the needs and concerns of the city and its citizens,” says a document outlining the city’s criteria.

Planning Director Randy Jorgenson summed it up this way: “We’re going to set the table, but they have to bring the food.”

In the tourism district in downtown Milton, applicants can get even larger breaks — up to 100 percent for five years — if they open lodging, restaurants or other businesses that improve the area’s appeal to visitors.

It’s part of the effort to expand on the area’s appeal to fans of the quaint downtown, the Blackwater River and Milton’s history, which dates back more than 160 years.

The incentives will make Milton competitive with other cities and help it continue to attract new businesses and residents.

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