Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kohl's--Part 3: The next logical step

This past Monday night, the Rolla City Council approved the tax increment financing ordinance that was needed to step up the negotiations with Kohl's Corporation and, perhaps, ultimately bring a Kohl's department store to Rolla.

As I have explained in previous "That's What I Think" columns, Kohl's--Part 1 and Kohl's--Part 2, this seems to me to be a new way of drawing retail business to a community.

It used to be that communities would give incentives to manufacturing companies. Communities like Rolla would waive property taxes, cut the price for electricity, offer cheap (or free) land and buildings just to get a company to put a factory in the town and put some people to work.

The politicians have exported our factories to China or other foreign countries, and cities looking for ways to put people to work are scrambling for retail stores. One city councilman, Louis Magdits, was quoted in the Rolla Daily News about how hopeful he was that the city could bring Kohl's Corporation's 120 jobs to Rolla.

The possibility of Kohl's here is about shopping for most residents, but it's about jobs for at least one councilman.

So why not go all the way? With Kohl's, we're dipping our toes into the lake of public funding of private business. If offering a major subsidy to Kohl's is the right thing to do to bring jobs to Rolla, why not try something even bigger? Let's just go ahead and jump head first into that public-private lake. Why not ask the voters to approve a bond issue to build a shopping mall and fund it with sales tax receipts and property tax rebates just like we're doing for Kohl's?

The city would have to line up tenants for the mall before construction would start, to assure having sales tax. I don't know if that's possible, but it's something to think about as we search for more retail jobs and more options for shopping.

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