Pike County wants to go on the offensive in attracting business

By Beth Brelje
Pocono Record Writer
May 03, 2012 12:00 AM
Pike County is at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to wooing companies but the Pike County Economic Development Authority has a plan to change that. The disadvantages boil down to three obstacles: a lack of land or buildings with existing infrastructure such as sewer, electric, or gas; difficulty getting timely approvals from local planning boards; and no financial incentives for companies facing the expense of a move, Authority Executive Director Michael Sullivan said..
New York, New Jersey and surrounding states offer the incentives companies expect to receive, Sullivan said. For example, in Sullivan County, N.Y., just across the border from Pike, businesses get diminishing tax breaks for up to 20 years, according to the Sullivan Industrial Development Agency. “We’ve got to be able to have something solid to offer. It’s important,” Sullivan said. The authority board is researching incentives that could be offered at the county level, including freezing an appraisal on land and building improvements for 10 years; offering a tax break off that frozen appraisal for 10 years; and forgiveness of property tax transfers. Those incentives, which are still taking shape, would require feedback from Pike municipalities, school districts and approval from the county commissioners before being adopted. One incentive that will not likely be offered in Pike is sales tax forgiveness. In New York, a business may not have to pay sales tax for building construction materials or heavy equipment purchased for use in the operation of the business. Offering a similar incentive in Pennsylvania would require changes to state law. It is worth pursuing, but it would likely take years to change, Sullivan said. For now, businesses face a higher starting cost in Pike, but the long-term benefits of operating in Pennsylvania pay off in lower taxes and lower wages for workers compared to surrounding states. “The big incentive is, ‘Come, be in the state,'” Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Chuck Leonard said. The corporation works to bring business to Monroe County. When it comes to incentives to attract new business, Monroe offers “nothing major,” Leonard said. The county does have a revolving loan fund that some companies can borrow from to buy equipment. There are also three Keystone Opportunity Zones in Monroe, properties that offer some tax breaks through the state. Pike has no Keystone Opportunity Zones..