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TIFs Tue Apr 19 2011

Testing TIF Mettle

This article in a metals industry blog details how Mayor Daley used tax increment financing (TIF) money to subsidize the move by A. Finkl & Sons steel to the South Side, keeping between 350 and 500 jobs in Chicago:

Big news last week for the Chicago steel industry when US steel producer A. Finkl & Sons Co. received a hefty chunk of change -- $20.5 million - from the city's Community Development Commission in TIF money to move operations to the former South Side site of Verson Steel (instead of picking up and moving to Canada). Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a hot-button issue in Chicago, as many city officials, including outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley, favor it as a way to incent local business development to spruce up blighted neighborhoods, while detractors say the property tax freeze that the government offers on these properties diverts money from local schools (yet somehow manages to get funneled into the pockets of Daley officials and their favorite developers).

Going with the higher number of 500 jobs, that comes out to about $40,000 per job. Finkl's new digs will be at 93rd and Kimbark on the far South Side, in the 8th Ward. On first inspection, this looks like exactly the type of thing that tax increment financing was meant to do--but of course, first inspections are rarely determinative. Still, in all the heat over TIFs, it's good to look at cases such as this to determine just how the program can be used to serve the public good.

But I'm open to arguments to the contrary--what do you think?

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