When a company seeks tax incentives — like sales tax rebates and property tax abatements — government bodies must think long and hard before signing off.
Thankfully, the proposal for Brandt Group of Companies — for a site in north Normal — is a clearheaded idea that is expected to bring up to 500 jobs to the area within nine years.
Brandt, based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, is a billion-dollar company that manufactures equipment used for John Deere agricultural and construction equipment. It is interested in the former Kongskilde site just east of Interstate 39.
Kongskilde, another agricultural manufacturer, sold part of its business last year to another company. The newly renovated factory — it had a $10 million upgrade in 2015 — is available as the local team prepares to move elsewhere in the Twin Cities.
The Kongskilde site, along with adjacent Nussbaum Transportation, is within a county enterprise zone that allows for tax incentives. The district also includes several taxing bodies that must agree to the incentives because the site is within their geographic boundaries.
On Monday, the Unit 5 school board voted 5-2 to approve the proposal. The McLean County Board was scheduled to vote late Tuesday, with Heartland Community College, Normal Township and others to follow.
It's hard for taxing bodies to give up tax money in the name of expected future growth, particularly with the woeful lack of state funding in recent years. But our local governments must keep their eyes on the prize: long-term, Brandt could bring a tremendous number of jobs here, which translates to employed workers who will buy homes, send their kids to local schools and spend their money on food, clothing, entertainment and big-ticket items like cars.
Governments often make incentives available to new or relocating businesses: tax increment financing districts freeze taxes at a specified amount, with the difference used for improvements within the district. Renovation grants can help with exterior work or beautification. City councils can rebate sales tax payments to developers or businesses as an enticement to locate. Some will throw in new sidewalks or a parking lot.
The Brandt proposal is no different — and, in fact, has been compared to the Rivian Automotive agreement for the former Mitsubishi plant — because incentives would be tied to future employment numbers.
Five hundred likely full-time, skilled jobs can make a significant dent in the unemployment left behind when Mitsubishi closed its car plant and when Macy's, JCPenney and Gordmans closed, to name a few.
Brandt is one of Canada's top businesses with worldwide reach, particularly with Moline-based John Deere. For what Brandt promises to bring to Illinois and McLean County, the incentive plan makes a great deal of sense.