By Paul Thompson
Sixth District KCMO Councilman Scott Taylor held a press conference at City Hall on Thursday, November 16 to announce a new ‘Revive the East Side’ economic package.
According to a press release issued by Taylor’s office, the package would create an East Side Investment Zone designed to spur job growth and economic activity east of Troost. Specifically, the preliminary ordinance proposes the authorization of a more robust real property tax abatement, and directs the City Manager to take action to remediate blight through housing revitalization in the newly formed East Side Investment Zone.
In the proposed ordinance, the investment zone would include the following boundaries: 4th Street on the north, 95th Street on the south, Troost Ave. on the west, and the City’s corporate boundaries on the east. The Ruskin neighborhoods of Taylor’s 6th District have also been included. Additionally, the proposal directs the City Manager to secure a funding source for a $10 million home improvement fund for the east side, and provides funds for a blight study. The blight study as proposed would focus on portions of the Troost and Prospect corridors, Independence Boulevard, the 18th and Vine District, Southwest Boulevard and the Ruskin area in South Kansas City.
The release discusses the importance of capitalizing on the momentum established in other parts of the city, including South Kansas City, the Northland, and the city’s chief entertainment districts: the Plaza, Westport, Crossroads and downtown.
“We are starting to see this momentum carry over to the East Side of KC but we need to expedite the pace of investment on the East Side to create a synergy like we are seeing in other parts of the city,” Taylor’s release notes.
One tactic Taylor has proposed to facilitate that momentum is to offer a tax abatement credit – totaling no more than 20% of an eligible investment – for businesses establishing new investments in the East Side Investment Zone. To be eligible for such an abatement, Taylor has proposed that a business owner or owners must make an investment of at least one million dollars. Additionally, the 6th District Councilman has proposed an eligible investment cap of $10 million for economic incentives.
In a follow-up conversation with the Northeast News, Taylor indicated that his plan is to officially introduce the legislation to the full City Council with a first-read during the Thursday, November 30 legislative session. From there, he plans to ask for the legislation to be assigned to the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development committee, where he’ll request that it be held until the first week of March 2018. The three-month hold is intended to allow time for community meetings that will help shape the scope of the initiative. Taylor hopes that the economic package will include a city match for the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which targets low-income workers in areas with high unemployment, along with veterans and other underserved individuals who face unique employment challenges.
“We need to do more to make it easier for small businesses to invest their money east of Troost,” Taylor said. “There are additional risks perceived; we hear that all the time in committee.”
Another potential funding mechanism for the package, Taylor suggested, might be a clause that allows business owners east of Troost to re-invest the Earnings Tax payments of its employees back into the business. That aspect of the package would require the Council to amend a current city ordinance which prohibits direct earnings tax incentives.
Though the specific details of the proposal need additional fine-tuning, Taylor feels it’s important for the City to turn its attention to the east side now that the G.O. bond package and a new single terminal airport have been approved by KCMO voters.
“I just want to get the conversation started, because I’m concerned that we’re going to move on to other topics,” Taylor said. “This will be an inclusive process, and it will allow everybody that wants to be involved in it to be involved in it.”