Palm Bay City Council Considers Economic Incentives and Inducements to Encourage Development
By Keely Leggett, City of Palm Bay Public Information Officer // February 19, 2021
workshop led by Community and Economic Development Director Joan Junkala-Brown
BREVARD COUNTY • PALM BAY, FLORIDA – On Thursday, February 11 the Palm Bay City Council held a workshop to consider economic development incentives and inducements to encourage commercial development in Palm Bay.
The workshop was led by Community and Economic Development Director Joan Junkala-Brown, who presented information on the current development climate in the city and offered options for strategic initiatives to retain existing businesses and drive new development in Palm Bay.
New commercial growth strengthens Palm Bay’s economy by providing quality jobs and expanding the City’s ad valorem tax revenue, enabling the City to sustain operations and fund critical infrastructure projects to meet the growing needs of the City of Palm Bay.
The City of Palm Bay currently utilizes an Ad Valorem Tax (AVT) Abatements Program to incentivize new commercial growth and job creation and participates in several federal initiatives that target development, including HUBzones, New Markets Tax Credits Program, and Opportunity Zones.
While currently in its infancy, the City’s Business Improvement District, which is centered along the Palm Bay Road corridor, is intended to be developed as a future high-tech corridor attracting major employers and creating new high-skill/high-wage jobs.
As means to fulfill City Council’s vision for increased commercial growth in the City, Council was presented with a variety of incentive programs to drive new development and inducements to attract new businesses to Palm Bay, along with considerations to ensure that incentives are performance-based, have defined eligibility requirements and qualifying criteria, established program guidelines and procedures, and well-regulated reporting and monitoring requirements.
The City is in the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan to address land use challenges and seek to increase commercial development in strategic areas of Palm Bay.
The City is currently developing a scope of work to commission an Economic Base Analysis which will provide an in-depth look at the current economic environment and opportunities to foster new commercial growth, development, and jobs in Palm Bay.
Additionally, the City will also commission a Business Improvement Corridor Plan intended to outline steps to facilitate the creation of a high-tech corridor along Palm Bay Road and Robert J. Conlan Boulevard. Both studies will provide a plan of action for the City to diversify the local economy and strengthen the City’s tax base.
“It’s the goal of the City to be strategic in its growth to attract favorable commercial development and quality jobs for residents,” said Junkala-Brown.
“New commercial development eases the tax burden on the residents as commercial properties carry a much higher ad valorem tax value and contribute greatly to the City’s revenue for future infrastructure improvements.
“Palm Bay faces unique challenges in attracting commercial development, but we need to ensure that steps are taken to protect the City’s investment when it comes to developing incentive programs. Such steps include requiring the applicant to provide a 50 percent match, creating incentive programs that are provided on reimbursement-basis, and evaluating performance indicators to ensure the City is getting a return on investment.”
City Council provided staff with direction to move forward with the development of proposed incentive programs and several key inducement programs to be brought forth to the City Council for final approval.
Staff proposed a new approach to providing ad valorem tax abatements to eligible businesses, a commercial façade improvement grant program targeting blighted commercial buildings along key commercial corridors in the City, and reduced and rebated building permitting and planning fees for new commercial development.
Staff also proposed new measures to leverage City-owned properties through funding certain site improvements such as land clearing, building demolition, and infrastructure improvements that make the property more marketable and increase the taxable value of the property.
The proposed incentives target investment in a property that remains in the City, rather than a private commercial enterprise.
“I’m thankful for Council’s feedback and encouraged by their support of these initiatives,” said Junkala-Brown.
“We want to remain competitive in attracting commercial development and foster an environment that shows Palm Bay is ready and open for business.”
A recording of the Economic Incentives and Inducements Workshop is available at the City of Palm Bay website at https://palmbayfl.new.swagit.com/videos/113027.
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