Westerville has entered into a new tax-incentive agreement that will facilitate the expansion of a local information technology company within city boundaries.
At its Sept. 18 meeting, Westerville City Council approved a five-year, 33 percent tax offset for the new growth of Harris, Mackessy & Brennan Inc., known as HMB.
According to Jason Bechtold, the city's economic development director, HMB plans to double its current space and hire an additional 100 employees at its 570 Polaris Parkway location.
Bechtold told council that HMB expects to have a total of 160 employees with a payroll of about $13.5 million in five years.
He said the agreement would still net the city about $1 million in taxes for the five-year period and will offset about $160,000 for HMB.
"This is an opportunity to retain and expand a rapidly-growing IT company in our city," Bechtold said.
According to Bechtold, HMB plans to build a "development center" that will train new programmers. Bechtold cited that plan, along with the growth of HMB, as reasons for putting together a deal to keep the company in Westerville.
"The incentive would support a company in one of the city's target industries," he said. "We're committed to growing high-quality jobs in our community with the creation of this development center. ... This is a new and positive approach that we hope we'll see from other companies in the future."
City council voted 6-1 to approve the agreement, with councilman Tim Davey against the deal.
Davey, who has opposed a variety of tax breaks throughout his time on council, said he felt "this type of agreement actually contradicts ... the constitution and other laws" and was "the wrong way to manage an economy."
He said the city's taxes, including the Parks, Recreation and Open Space 0.25-percent city income tax that was extended by voters in 2014 through 2040, contribute to their need to make such agreements.
"I welcome HMB; I appreciate their confidence in Westerville," he said. "I'd be interested to find out if our income-tax rate is the reason they need this incentive to stay in Westerville. I think if we hadn't passed that levy for the community center and other parks and recreation expansion projects ... that lower tax rate would have kept them in Westerville without offering the tax incentive."
Council Chairman Mike Heyeck disagreed with Davey. He offered "as much accolades to our economic development team as I can possibly give as one person's 'thank you' for what you do," and said the city wouldn't be the same without taxes.
"Imagine 25 years ago if we went with that direction," he said. "We would not have Polaris Parkway, County Line Road West, expanded Sunbury Road, expanded County Line Road, Cleveland Avenue extended. We would not have those because we would not be able to fund them."