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Only Oswego

Lack of Incentive Policy Slowing Oswego Economic Development: Director

Jul 21, 2014 09:46PM ● By Steven Jack

When it comes to new retail and industrial development, the village of Oswego is at a disadvantage to its neighbors. 

At least that’s the opinion of Vijay Gadde, the village’s economic director, who recently asked village trustees to come to an agreement on an economic incentive policy made available to potential developers. Trustees discussed a potential policy at their committee of the whole meeting July 15.

“The lack of a consensus has resulted in no policy that the staff or development community can rely upon to begin productive discussion or determine potential outcomes,” Gadde wrote in a memo to trustees and Village President Brian LeClercq. “The lack of a policy is a disadvantage to Oswego since we are competing with neighboring municipalities who have policies and use them in economic development marketing.” 

Economic incentives like tax increment finance districts and sales tax rebates have long been a point of contention among Oswego’s elected officials. Trustee Terry Michels, who in the past has spoken against economic incentives, said each development should be judged on a case-by-case basis to determine the merit of a specific economic incentive.

“I don’t want the candy shop to be open seven days a week (to developers),” Michels said. 

Developing an economic incentive policy was called for in the village’s strategic plan adopted by the trustees in 2012. Gadde said the time has come to be clear about what tools the village will offer to developers. 

“... If we want to market the availability and criteria related to an incentive tool, let’s say it and define the conditions,” Gadde wrote “If we are opposed to the use of an incentive tool regardless of any criteria, then let’s say it and it will not be used in our economic development marketing per adopted policy.”

Reasons to offer incentives could range from the growth of the local tax and employment base to the ability to aggressively target highly desirable businesses, Gadde said. One potential drawback would be the “cannibalization” of existing businesses whose business could be hurt with a new development brought in with an incentive.

“What I hear from the community is that (incentives) unlevel the playing field,” LeClercq said. 

Gadde said incentives could be tailored so existing businesses would not be hurt. 

While trustees last week were not able to come to a consensus on which incentives to include in a policy, Trustee Tony Giles said the village can’t “micromanage” every future development with respect to incectives. 

“We owe developers a clear picture of what’s on the table or off the table,” Giles said.