LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - Lawton City Council members voted unanimously to approve the next step in Republic Paper’s plans to expand its plant through a new Tax Increment Financing district.
Council’s vote will allow for different entities involved in the proposed TIF district, including the city of Lawton, Comanche County, the Health Department, Cache Public Schools and Great Plains Technology to form a committee that will each public hearings, and decide how the TIF could positively or negatively impact them financially.
Republic Paper has shown interest in an expansion to their plant in Lawton, and for that to happen, the LEDC president said Republic is asking for an incentive to keep that business here.
“Republic is spending 90 million dollars, most of that on equipment. That will all be taxed. Republic actually will get part of the taxes that he TIF, the extra dollars created for the TIF will go back to Republic as an incentive," said Ron Nance.
Nance said this could be a game changer for the city, because of how slow industrial development is happening in Lawton.
“Lawton has operated on about 10 percent as much economic development money as other communities our size, and this will help us get a footing,” said Nance.
“The situation we find ourselves in concerning industry is that we are so far behind, there’s no way Lawton can do this on it’s own,” said Lawton Mayor Stan Booker.
One entity involved in the potential TIF district is Cache Public Schools, and their Superintendent spoke about why he believes this may not benefit Cache the way it might be designed to.
“A company comes in and builds a plant, okay? Well they aren’t paying property taxes that benefit the county, the schools, it’s going to go whatever the reviewing committee declares," said Cache Superintendent Chad Hance.
Hance said he’s all in board with growing industry in West Lawton, he just wants the council to tread lightly.
“I think the focus should be on creating a workforce that businesses would like to have, that if they relocate, they can hire quality employees that do jobs effectively,” said Hance.
Nance said he’s excited the city is moving forward with this project, and he believes people will see that the TIF will likely do nothing but positively impact growth in Southwest Oklahoma.
“It doesn’t cost tax payers anything, and it creates extra funds that can be used to entice industries to come, and maintain our current industries," said Nance.
Mayor Booker said it was crucial to accomplish this, because they need to get the final approval in by December, and the public hearings and research required by each entity could take some time.