Westerville will not be part of a pact among 12 of 16 Franklin County municipalities that forbids tax-incentive agreements for companies that move from one central Ohio city to another.

Westerville will not be part of a pact among 12 of 16 Franklin County municipalities that forbids tax-incentive agreements for companies that move from one central Ohio city to another.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman announced the agreement, which puts an 18-month moratorium on such tax deals, on March 21.

Westerville City Manager Dave Collinsworth said the city has been working with other central Ohio communities on the agreement for nearly a year.

In December, Westerville was one of 10 communities that signed letters of intent stating they agreed with an anti-poaching deal "in principle" and that they would not "overtly pursue" companies located in other central Ohio communities.

That agreement allowed flexibility for companies; it said if a company needed to find a new facility to accommodate growth, a different community could offer an incentive, Collinsworth said.

If the payroll of the company was more than $10 million, the municipality the company moved to would share some of the tax revenue with the community the company was relocating from, Collinsworth said.

Westerville backed out of the deal when the complete moratorium on tax incentives for companies from other central Ohio communities was put on the table, Collinsworth said, because that deal is too restrictive.

Sometimes firms do need to relocate, he said, and businesses look for tax incentives, along with location, infrastructure and workforce, when considering a new site.

Westerville wants some flexibility in dealing with those situations, and the moratorium does not provide it, Collinsworth said.

"We know in a perfect world, everything's not that neat and tidy," he said. "We're not going to unduly harm the economic environment of the community."

The moratorium also would apply to buildings that already have tax incentives tied to them, something Westerville does offer in some of its office developments.

"What concerns us about that is it applies not only to an income-tax incentive or some other cash incentive that a community might offer to a particular business but also to a building," Collinsworth said. "We're kind of cutting all of that off in the future, going forward."

In announcing the agreement, Coleman said it would level the playing field for all of central Ohio because it would prevent companies from pitting one city against another to barter the best deal.

Coleman said he thinks the cooperation would only strengthen central Ohio, instead of diluting the work pool by spreading it out to the highest bidders. It would not affect tax incentives being offered to companies looking to stay in their respective cities, he said.

Though Westerville does not support the current agreement, the city is committed to working with and being good neighbors in central Ohio, Collinsworth said.

"There's a lot of merit in the concept; it's just a matter of getting the particulars right," he said. "We want to collaborate with our fellow municipalities in the region and make sure we do the right thing. We also want to make sure we don't do any potential harm to our economic environment overall."

There are portions of the agreement Westerville does agree with, Collinsworth said.

For example, the agreement would require that if a business from one community contacted another about relocating, the contacted community would notify the home community so that city would have the opportunity to try to retain the business. Westerville officials also don't believe neighboring communities should aggressively pursue one another's businesses with incentives for moving, Collinsworth said.

"We haven't done that before this conversation; we're not going to start that after this conversation," he said.

Dublin, Canal Winchester and Whitehall are the other communities that have not signed on to the agreement, Coleman said. In addition to Westerville, Coleman said, Dublin is working in good faith, but he said the other two communities were not on board.

The agreement will have to be approved by each city's council, Coleman said.