There was a time when Canyon County perhaps struggled to attract businesses to open up shop here. For that matter, the name “Idaho” hasn’t always lit up the economic development community’s conversations.
But those days are gone. The cat’s out of the bag. The secret is out. Idaho is a great place to do business. We’ve got low utility rates, a great quality of life, low wages, affordable land, affordable buildings, low traffic congestion and, yes, low taxes.
We can understand some public officials’ knee-jerk desire to keep handing out tax breaks to companies “thinking about” moving to the Treasure Valley. “Please, please, please come here,” these tax breaks scream. “We know no one wants to move to Idaho, let alone Nampa or Caldwell, so let me sweeten the pot for you.”
It smacks of desperation, this promise to let a company not pay its full tax bill for a number of years in exchange for the promise to “create” jobs.
But at what cost? Do these workers not drive on the roads, leading to wear and tear that must be repaired? Do fire districts not need to purchase more equipment and build new fire stations to respond to calls in the next new subdivision that pops up because of these new businesses moving in? Do highway districts not need to build roundabouts or install new traffic signals to handle the increased traffic?
Unfortunately, some elected officials, namely Canyon County commissioners, just look at the increased tax revenues that are already coming into the county coffers because of the good economy and increased property values and are coming to the conclusion that they can do without more property tax revenue from another company seeking to take advantage of all that Idaho has to offer.
The latest is NxEdge, an electronics utility company with four locations in California and Boise. The company manufactures semiconductor machinery, and the Boise location builds and delivers custom machinery and other technology. The new Nampa location at 16989 Madison Ave. is an existing 84,000-square-foot building. NxEdge promises to create 64 jobs with an average salary of $48,484 by 2020, and 97 new jobs by 2024.
Canyon County commissioners Tom Dale and Pam White this month approved a five-year, 75 percent property tax exemption for the proposed Nampa expansion on $5.9 million in property value each year, starting in 2020.
NxEdge officials must be pretty crafty negotiators, especially considering the company already had purchased the Nampa building location in August. Are we to believe that if NxEdge had not received the tax break, the company would go somewhere else, even though they already bought the building? That’s usually the argument, right? If we don’t give them a tax break, they’ll go somewhere else.
Getting a tax break in Canyon County is like shooting fish in a barrel.
Let’s also keep in mind that the state is on a tax break binge, as well.
NxEdge also now qualifies for the Idaho Department of Commerce’s Tax Reimbursement Incentive program, which requires a local match. On May 24, Idaho Commerce’s Economic Advisory Council approved the NxEdge’s eligibility for a 10-year, 22 percent tax reimbursement valued at $1.97 million, referred to in documents from the state and Canyon County as “Project Widget.” Final approval of the award is still pending.
We don’t mean to pick on NxEdge. They just happen to be the latest in a string of companies getting tax breaks from the county and the state.
Meanwhile, existing businesses and existing property owners continue to see their tax bills rise with increasing property assessments and the seemingly constant requests from school districts, cities, community colleges and — yes, Canyon County — for new tax levies and bonds.
We’re not against tax breaks per se, and we’re certainly not against new jobs and growth. But currently, we can’t afford road repairs, new fire equipment and stations, new police officers, higher teacher pay, new school buildings and a new jail, much of which has been necessitated by growth.
Before handing out yet another tax break to yet another company that’s already planning to move here, we’d like to see the county put together a study and analysis justifying the tax break and documenting its impact on all of the other agencies, from schools and highway districts to fire districts, police departments and cities.
Idaho, the Treasure Valley and Canyon County have plenty to offer new businesses that want to move here. We’re not convinced we need to keep begging companies to move here anymore. And with tax breaks for these new companies, we’re not convinced we can afford it, either.