As we’ve said in this space many times before, economic development is much like putting together a complicated jigsaw puzzle. To be successful, all the parts must fit.
The best place to start in putting together a puzzle is to identify all the pieces needed to complete it. On Friday, the Washington County Economic Development Council and Johnson City Development Authority identified one such piece when it approved a plan to create a tax increment financing district to promote private retail and commercial development on nearly 100 acres of farmland off Interstate 26’s Exit 17 in Boones Creek.
Johnson City and Washington County officials hope this property will attract high-end retail and dining development. In return, these new businesses will create jobs and new sales tax revenues for their governments.
Securing land for such economic purposes is key. In addition to finding land for that purpose, however, local leaders must also be willing to spend the money for the necessary infrastructure. That might include building new roads and improving existing ones. With construction costs rising and state highway funds becoming even more limited, it has become necessary for local governments to make a heavier investment in such improvements.
This is where the TIF will play an important role. It will allow this property to be developed without taking precious tax dollars from other established areas of the city that are also in need of help.
Another essential part of the economic development puzzle is making sure students are graduating high school with the skills they need to compete in the job market.
A work force that is not prepared to take on real life situations, such as dealing with personal finances or meeting work deadlines, does not inspire confidence in potential employers.