JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -It’s a powerful economic tool called tax increment financing. Mississippi cities have used it for years to attract new business, and now Jackson County is the first county in the state to receive that tool, thanks to historic legislation passed Thursday by the state legislature.
This new TIF designation will be centered around the Cook Road widening project in west Jackson County. The $30 million widening and expansion of Cook Road is well underway. With the power of TIF in hand, the county can now borrow money to pay for infrastructure improvements for large businesses willing to locate along the corridor.
Paying the money back is what TIF is all about.
“The county can then divert 18.5 percent of sale tax to required infrastructure development for projects with a minimum threshold of $10 million of investment," said Jackson County Economic Development Executive Director George Freeland.
This could be a gamechanger for commercial real estate brokers like Caryn Hanson.
“It’s outstanding news because all developers, big developers like those who have come in just west of here, they need help with their infrastructure costs," she said.
Businesses already established near Cook Road could feel the impact as well.
“Whenever you have investment in an area where you’re going to have good businesses, it’s going to help the whole area develop. So I think it will be real beneficial to our business," said Art Hadler, owner of a car dealership.
With deference to the great baseball movie, “Field of Dreams,” a line in that movie certainly holds true when it comes to the widening of Cook Road: "If you build it, they will come.” Businesses, that is.
“We have several businesses that have been down and talked with us in Jackson County at our board room," said county supervisor Troy Ross. "They are interested in coming. They were actually waiting on this to pass before they actually pull any triggers. So I think we’ll see something relatively quick.”
Some homeowners along Cook Road have expressed concerns about rapid growth, but county officials, including Ross, have a response.
“Most people understand that growth is going to happen. You have two options. You either grow or you die," Ross aid.
Freeland said there’s a reason Jackson County is the first in the state to receive TIF designation.
“The lieutenant governor and the legislature and the governor all have a degree or sense of confidence in our ability to execute on a large scale, be it commercial or industrial," he said.
The bill now heads to Gov. Phil Bryant for his approval. In the past, he has supported the legislation so he is expected to sign the bill into law.