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by Paul Leakan
(September 16) Clarksburg City Council wants to lure more businesses within its city limits, and tax-free incentives may be the bait.
City officials are considering a three-year business and occupation tax waiver to any business that is located within a mile of Clarksburg's corporate limits, but not in any other official municipality, in exchange for annexation.
Council will consider the first reading of the ordinance amending the city's tax credit programs for businesses during its 7:30 p.m. meeting Thursday in the Clarksburg Municipal Building.
City Manager Percy Ashcraft feels the ordinance could be an effective way to spur future economic growth.
"Economic development is about giving something to get something," City Manager Percy Ashcraft said. "We feel this would be an excellent tool to attract more businesses in the long term."
Council, however, needs to proceed with caution in order to be fair to existing businesses, Councilman Sam "Zeke" Lopez said.
"I'm going to look at it long and hard," Lopez said. "I want to help out all business owners; both in and out of town. You've got to be fair to everyone."
The city has received two inquiries from businesses that would benefit from the plan. A doctor's office has been seeking to move to Clarksburg, and a long-time local business, Davis Funeral Home Inc., may choose to leave the city to build a modern facility elsewhere.
In the long run, the city could attract more businesses on the outskirts of the city limits that aren't a part of another city, Ashcraft said. That could include businesses such as the car dealerships on Old Bridgeport Hill Road or the businesses at Rosebud Plaza, Ashcraft said.
"We get more businesses. We also have increased real estate property tax and potential for increased fire service fees," Ashcraft said. "We get a percentage of real estate tax that's in the city; if they're outside the city we don't get any of that."
Businesses would also receive numerous advantages under the deal, Ashcraft said.
For example, if the city annexed a business into the city, the business would receive all the services of being in the city, such as the fire, police and public works departments.
But Lopez said he isn't sure giving away these services for three years is the best move.
"It's like selling anything," Lopez said, "you've got to sell your product.
"(But) there's a happy medium somewhere. I don't think we should give anything away. I feel we have a good police department, fire department (and) a good public works department. I don't think we should sell our services cheap."
Business and occupation taxes in Clarksburg range from as low as .35 cents on a dollar for a manufacturing company to as high of 1 percent for a restaurant or other service business.
"Once we contact every business and see how many are interested we'll know how successful it is," Ashcraft said.