EDITORIAL: Thumbs up for Commissioner Parks

Jun. 08, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

For some Republicans, the idea of providing economic incentives for industry (known in their parlance as “corporate welfare”) falls somewhere between Satan worship and free health care for illegal immigrants on the list of things they abhor the most.

Thankfully, the notion of “big picture” and voting on the individual merits of an issue are alive and well for elected officials. Those ideals helped Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Parks cast the deciding vote on the matter this week of whether to award an incentive package to auto parts manufacturer GKN Driveline.

Parks broke with the rest of the Republican majority and sided with Democrats Robert Reives, Amy Dalrymple and Ricky Frazier in passing a $154,000 incentive package. Parks’ fellow Republicans Andre Knecht, Kirk Smith and Jim Womack voted against the incentive.

Parks says he anguished over his vote. Like the rest of the Republicans on the board — and most everyone else on the planet — he dislikes incentives. But it’s a tool that has to be used on occasion because competing counties and states use them to entice industry and jobs. In making his decision, Parks noted the fact that some companies looking for a site for a new facility have expressed wariness of Lee County’s relatively high property tax rate and the relative lack of an educated workforce. Securing the GKN expansion, he reasoned, will help broaden the tax base.

(Under the package, the GKN Driveline is required to create at least 105 jobs with an average wage of close to $40,000 a year. The company must also agree to make at least $8.5 million worth of taxable investment here.)

“You can only fix the schools if you have all the taxes you can get,” Parks said.

Fellow Commissioner Reives also thinks the incentive will guarantee the county more tax dollars, coming from both the new property taxes and from the tax revenues that 105 more people with jobs would spend.

Frazier echoed Parks’ point by saying, “…sometimes you have to do thing you don’t like.”

Thankfully, Parks was more concerned about the merits of GKN’s package than toeing his party’s traditional line on incentives.

Each of the commissioners on the board voted his or her conscience. Hats off to Parks for making the vote he did.