Muncie puts tools in the box to create jobs, economic growth in 2014

Muncie City Council wants jobs to stay local 

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS)  - Government leaders went to work this week, offering incentives to guarantee millions of dollars in new development during 2014.

 And some members of Muncie City Council want to make sure whether it is the new Dick's Sporting Goods near the Muncie Mall or a proposed assisted living community in South Muncie, that local labor is used.

 Todd Donati, Muncie Redevelopment Commission director, pulled out the tool bis, wanting council to approve financing and a new development areas thanks to Tax Increment Finance that takes property taxes on new development and puts it back into infrastructure and utilities for that development.

 TIF, which some conservatives believe bleeds government and schools of new revenue, has been used to rebuild roads around the mall, near busy Morrison and McGalliard and even buy cars and trucks for public safety.

 This time, TIF will build new streets and sidewalks around the $14 million commercial development at the mall that Dick's will anchor and bring other retail to the shopping mecca.

 Council initially approved a $2.5 million bond financed by TIF for the infrastructure. Dicks' will begin construction at the old Bassett Ponitac lot at McGalliard and Princeton in February. By next Christmas, there will be a handful of other shopping options in a $14 million development.

 And council took the first step to create a south Muncie TIF incorporating commercial and industrial property that could be redeveloped.

Donati said the community had to offer incentives to compete with other communities and other states that literally put up millions of dollars for new jobs and development.

 While Muncie can muster up to $60 million at a time with help from state to attract a new employer, a state like Mississippi puts up over $260 million to attract new manufacturing, Donati said, which makes it difficult to compete.

Republican council member Brad Polk asked about the impact of TIF and how much money would be taken from government. Donati explained only new tax dollars go to TIF and no current tax dollars are lost.

The city is working with a developer to build an assisted living community on West Memorial Drive, and Donati said there was other interest in south Muncie. Small Engine Warehouse also is moving into the old Kmart off Walnut and Madison streets.

Democratic council member Jerry Dishman, a Teamster, wanted assurances that new development would mean local labor on construction.

Donati said more than 100 construction jobs would be created on the new commercial development that includes Dick's And Donati said he worked every day to bring more local construction work to the community,

Some council members have been concerned that little local labor is being used to build apartments whether it was the new Grove on McGalliard or the University Promenade on University.

An Indianapolis homebuilder is framing the apartments and using Hispanic work crews. Out of state laborers helped build the Grove.