Tuesday, July 12, 2011
DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE? LET ME KNOW
Is it possible to stimulate business growth in Hartford? Is there any hope for real "economic development" with a mill rate almost 30 mills higher than the next closest Connecticut city, New Haven at approximately 43 mills?
One of the challenges in running for Hartford City Council is trying to figure out what to do if I am successful in my campaign and actually get there.
One of the things that I think is necessary is a plan that will actually allow us to compete with other towns to attract business back to Hartford. What business owner would locate or start a new business in Hartford with a tax rate of 73 mills when they could travel probably a mile in any direction and see their tax rate almost half of that in our neighboring suburbs.
I know this plan would need a lot of work, but Hartford has had a history of giving tax breaks and incentives, primarily for large corporations, to move into Hartford. But shouldn't that also be done to encourage more small business development. The reality is that small business, typically the businesses with under 50 employees, are the engine that drives any City, not just Hartford.
As an example I use Sunshine Laundry on Maple Avenue. Sunshine Laundry employed probably over 40 Hartford residents, many of whom actually walked to work from the surrounding neighborhoods. After a devastating fire, Sunshine Laundry did not rebuild on their site primarily because the property taxes on a new building would have killed the business's profit. The owner actually looked at properties outside of Hartford and considered moving his operation to a neighboring town where the taxes would be close to half of what they are in Hartford. The fire site is now basically a vacant lot and the business operates out of a few storage sheds on Prospect Avenue, near the West Hartford town line
Now my question. Does it make sense to develop a program that any business willing to move into Hartford, or anyone starting a new business in Hartford, and willing to make the commitment to hire Hartford residents would receive a tax abatement to equal the mill rate of comparable suburban towns? This would hopefully make Hartford able to compete with Windsor, Bloomfield, West Hartford, East Hartford and every other town that is willing to make the effort to lure small business away from our City.
I would probably prefer to see the abatement's issued only on new construction or for abandoned or vacant buildings not currently generating revenue for the City, but that could be open for debate. I guess my thinking is that nothing times nothing is still nothing. If we were able to convince businesses to take a chance on Hartford while only asking them to bear the tax liability they would incur if they started in a suburban town, I think that would at least give them a reason to consider Hartford.
Hopefully at the end of the term of the tax abatement, whether 5, 7 or even 10 years, Hartford will have its act together and the Grand List will be growing, the mill rate will be decreasing to a competitive rate and a lot of our vacant businesses will be occupied by companies that can compete and are committed to Hartford.
I know it is just a thought, but let me know how you would tweak it or if you think it would even work at all.