Feb. 27--The Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. Executive Committee approved a JSDC jobs incentive grant of $682,000 to Dakota Spirit AgEnergy Wednesday. The recommendation will be presented to the JSDC Board of Directors on March 10 and will also require approval by the Jamestown City Council and the Stutsman County Commission.
The recommendation followed a discussion of whether the JSDC should modify or eliminate the jobs incentive grant program. The program provides grants of $17,500 for every job paying more than $15 per hour. It is funded by the portion of the Jamestown sales tax dedicated to economic development and a Stutsman County property tax levy.
"I think this tool is one of the least valuable to economic development in our particular circumstances," Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen said. "It is not because we can stop recruiting jobs, it is because we have so many other needs that can inhibit job growth like lack of housing and workforce."
Connie Ova, CEO of the JSDC, said the program could have large costs in the future.
"A lot of the concern I've heard is we have a huge gorilla out there that is going to come in and ask for everything," she said, referring to the CHS nitrogen fertilizer plant. CHS is in the final stages of planning for a nitrogen fertilizer plant in Spiritwood Township.
CHS anticipates about 150 jobs with an average wage of about $85,000 per year. Providing the jobs incentive grant for all those jobs could cost the JSDC about $3.5 million.
The executive committee directed the JSDC staff to send out letters to all companies that have received proposals including the jobs incentive grant, saying the grants were not being offered by the JSDC pending a review of the program by the committee. It then voted to table the review of the program until the next meeting.
Al Christianson, manager of North Dakota business development and governmental affairs for Great River Energy, owner of the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol plant, said his company had included the grant as a source of revenue during its project planning.
"When you look at our budget of $155 million, this is one of our sources of funds," he said.
The vote to recommend approving the grant was unanimous.
The executive committee also approved purchasing 320 acres of land in Spiritwood Township adjacent to the Spiritwood Energy Park Association property. The land is priced at $6,000 per acre or about $2 million for the parcel. The JSDC Board of Directors approved the purchase on Feb. 3, but it was voted down by the Stutsman County Commission.
"In talking to the County Commission and Spiritwood Township they were deathly afraid we would annex the property into Jamestown," Ova said. "The motion has to include a clause that says the JSDC will not pursue, advocate or allow annexation of the property into Jamestown as long as the JSDC has control."
The executive committee approved the purchase with the clause and adjourned the meeting. A special meeting of the JSDC Board of Directors was then convened which also approved the purchase. The issue now moves to the Jamestown City Council and Stutsman County Commission for consideration during their March meetings.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com
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