Long Beach looking at tax breaks for new businesses

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Long Beach leaders are considering taking a more aggressive approach to luring new businesses to the city. The mayor and aldermen have scheduled a work session to discuss a possible tax abatement.  One alderman said it could be the spark to ignite a commerce resurgence on Jeff Davis Avenue and Highway 90.

Business is so good at Donald Frazier's downtown Long Beach restaurant that last month he doubled his seating and his kitchen space and added a bar.

"You have so much construction here on Jeff Davis right now. I think it's started a buzz,"said Frazier.

Even with all the buzz, some city leaders say since Katrina restaurants and retail businesses have not been as quick to return to Jeff Davis Avenue and Highway 90 as the city would like. Long Beach officials believe part of the problem is the high cost of insurance and construction south of the tracks so the city is talking a possible tax break.

"So we would in turn give back to them on the purpose of ad valorem to help them offset their cost for insurance, flood insurance or whatever the case may be," said Gary Ponthieux, Ward 1 alderman. "Let them rebuild in our city."

"The key is to bring in the retail businesses back," Ponthieux said. "We had a lot of flourishing retail businesses here on Jeff Davis and along highway 90 in the past before the storm, and we'd like to see about getting them all back."

Ponthieux says by replacing the empty lots with retail businesses the city may gain in sales tax collections what it would give up in ad valorem. He says a tax break could possibly catch the attention of a casino developer.

"I think that would be an incentive for any huge development to come in. What I mean by that is $40 million, $50 million, $100 million. That would be a huge break for that development to come in," Ponthieux. "I think it would also create a lot of jobs. A lot of needed jobs for people in the local area."

While existing businesses wouldn't qualify for the tax exemption, some city leaders believe they could benefit from a commercial boom. Donald Frazier agrees.

"I think it would bring in more people. It think the restaurants that are in here and are coming are great," said Frazier. "There are a lot of things planned for Jeff Davis that would bring more people down here. "

Long Beach officials say if the city passes the tax abatement, the Harrison County board of supervisors would have to sign off before the measure could moved forward. The exemption would not apply to taxes paid to the school district.

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