City moves closer to offering tax breaks for new, expanding businesses

SEBASTIAN – City leaders are another step closer in offering tax breaks for certain businesses that bring in more jobs after a 3-hour workshop Wednesday night.

The Sebastian City Council, along with representatives from the Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce and other local business owners discussed ways to boost the city’s economy. One option is to offer a property tax break for targeted industries over a period of time. The city has identified several industries it would like to attract to the area, including clean light industrial, aviation and aerospace technology, marine, eco-tourism related businesses, and green initiatives.

Other industries the city would like to avoid bringing in include heavy industrial/manufacturing, chemical, fertilizer, and cement.

Voters in Sebastian overwhelmingly approved granting power to the city council to offer tax breaks to certain businesses. The next step for the city is to craft the ordinance that would spell out its ability to do so.

That ordinance is expected to be presented to council on Dec. 16 for the first reading and could be approved in January after a second and final hearing.

During the Dec. 16 meeting, council members are also expected to discuss the possibility of hiring a marketing consultant to help the city craft a marketing plan to draw businesses into the area.

City Manager Al Minner told the council that he could research how much a consultant might cost and present that at the next meeting.

To help incoming businesses move into the city, officials have named an economic development coordinator. Joe Griffin, the city’s airport manager, will split his time between his airport duties and City Hall.

Griffin will be the point person new business owners can turn to for help in filing the necessary paperwork and getting the permits needed.

“Joe’s a good talker,” Minner said, “and represents the city well.”

Griffin is expected to move into an office at City Hall in the next week or so.

Officials also discussed what it would take to streamline and fast track permits so businesses could open quickly.

Minner told the council that the city already has in place an expedited site plan review process, but it has not been used so much due to the slow market.

“I feel the eagerness,” Minner said, adding that the city could work to get the word out about the process.

The city council also discussed upgrading its Web sites in order to better promote the city and provide information about economic development. Already, Minner’s staff with help from community volunteers have been working on fixing up and

Minner cautioned the council that they might have to reexamine city resources in terms of staff and funds when upgrading the Web sites, noting that they are currently relying on volunteers.

One of the reasons the Web sites have not been updated as regularly as the council would have liked or have the rich content expected is due to not having the resources to keep the sites up, according to Minner.

“Web design and maintenance will absorb as much money and time as you want” to put into it, said Councilman Eugene Wolff. He suggested that the city actively recruit more volunteers to help on the site.

Councilwoman Andrea Coy recommended turning to the Indian River County School District for help, explaining that some of the schools are now teaching Web design.

“These kids are amazing,” she said.

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