TIFS & Jobs

Organic, Incremental land development is always more desirable then the “magic bullet” project. The same can be said about job creation.

I’ve written alot about the Hamilton Crossings TIF. I’ve tried to keep the land use issues separate from TIF funding issues. At first from a land use perspective I felt it was a good project based on assurances of quality, context, function and form. Then the project slowly started to devolve. Today, it is a very large strip mall. Albeit, one with bells and whistles. Unfortunately, a smattering of bells and whistles doesn’t make a strip mall a town center lifestyle complex. Definitely not one in the mold of the promenade. Which is what we were promised in exchange for the township supporting a more intense/dense project.

We’re not getting what we were sold and that remains a problem. Assurances of quality were what made the TIF pill easier to swallow. If I were a County Commissioner looking at the topic my vote would be ‘no’ as the project stands today. First the infrastructure improvements need to include a limited access interchange. That’s the logic for the TIF. That the infrastructure improvements are a benefit to the whole region. We’ve got to get rid of the lights on the by-pass. Penndot at one time recommended a “skinny diamond” interchange. What happened to that recommendation? The Bypass needs to be a road moving cars quickly from point A to B while old Hamilton needs to be allowed to flourish into a Main Street. Streets are value capture mechanisms, roads move cars. We can’t afford to build side by side STROADS. Secondly, the project needs to represent what we were sold. There is a tax abatement in play and the public deserves to get what we were promised when the developer was trying to rally support.

Today, I want to talk TIF a little more. Specifically TIF’s and job creation. On patch this afternoon someone made a comment about the jobs. Fair enough. I hear that often. It’s an interesting conversation. I have some problems with the general argument and I’ll lay them out here.

There have been some good studies done on TIF’s and job creation.  Yes, TIF creates jobs. The problem is no one ever looks at the “but for” factor. What that means is if job creation, and economic development would not happen BUT FOR the existence of a TIF district then yes, proponents of TIF’s have a very good case. Where proponents logic is flawed however is that as soon as you look at the “but for” factor you quickly see that the studies that do take it into account very clearly show that most communities still get the economic development without the TIF. Especially ones with the strengths and desirability of LMT.

So while we might not get the big strip “Costco” mega project at THAT particular location without TIF, we definitely will still get continued job creation and economic development here in Lower Macungie. Why? Because we’re an attractive community for employers at a strategic location. We have developers literally filing litigation to get zoning changes to be able to build here. That’s how desirable our community is to employers. We have 1.5 million square ft of warehouses coming. 100’s of 1000’s of square ft of commercial development coming. Nearly 1000 more homes in the pipeline. Trust me, if Hamilton Crossings doesn’t build someone else will. Even with the mine wash issues. Someone will build. No one in their right mind can say we don’t have a very healthy amount of economic development here in Lower Macungie.  If you take into account the “but if” factor when considering a TIF for LMT the results are very clear. Yes, TIF’s produce jobs. But we’re producing jobs here in LMT without TIF’s. So how isn’t this picking winners and losers?

Exhibit A – I want to wait until this set in stone cause it’s so exciting. But presentations have already been made at public meetings. It’s safe to say there is a large company about to buy the Daytimers building. They want to bring nearly 200 great paying manufacturing jobs. Guess what? NO TIF NEEDED. Job creation will happen because we’re an attractive area. Not because of gov’t tax abatements.