Having served on the City Council for the last four years, I hear from many constituents regarding their hopes for the future, frustrations, and occasionally, things that are going well. Some of the conversations that I enjoy most are brainstorming about what our future could look like and what businesses, restaurants, stores, or even housing options they would recruit or incentivize to come to Sioux City. However, one thing I have learned is that it is never that easy. Economic Development uses several tools to attract business and industry to our community; here are some examples.
- Shovel-ready sites – Land that is ready for development and fully served by infrastructure (e.g., roads, water, sewer, electric, gas, etc.) is more attractive to a company and expedites the location selection process. Shovel-ready sites have been instrumental in attracting and retaining large-scale developments in Sioux City like Seaboard Triumph Foods and Sabre Industries.
- Tax Increment Financing (TIF) – TIF is the City’s most versatile and helpful tool for encouraging economic development. The increase in taxes generated by a TIF district project can be captured by the City for use in financing public improvements. Examples in the city where a TIF has been used to accomplish significant commercial developments include Lakeport Commons and Sunnybrook Plaza and construct the industrial infrastructure needed in each of the City’s business parks. TIFs have also been used to assist developers with the revitalization of historic buildings downtown, leading to renovated storefronts for new retailers and restaurants to locate. TIF can also provide the flexibility to offer such incentives as property tax rebates and other creative scenarios to meet the unique needs of a specific project or company.
- Workforce Housing Tax Credit Program – This State program provides tax benefits to developers who create housing in Iowa communities and focuses primarily on projects that use abandoned, empty or dilapidated properties. Several projects in Sioux City have received funding through this program, including Virginia Square, Bluebird Flats, Urbane 1220, and The Summit at Sunnybrook, to name a few. Currently, there is a $13 million backlog of projects statewide, and the Governor is proposing to add $50 million into this program annually for three years. These tax benefits are essential to keep the housing costs down and continue housing development in Sioux City.
- Façade Improvement Program- The Façade Improvement Programs are in place to improve the aesthetic appearance of the exterior façades of buildings and businesses in the project areas, to restore the unique character of buildings in the area as much as practicable, and to encourage private investment in properties and businesses. The property owner must provide a 25% match to the funding award and sign a promissory note and mortgage, which forgives the loan amount over five years. For example, if a property owner has a project to replace exterior windows, repair brickwork, and improve accessibility to the building at a total cost of $30,000, the city would participate in the project at $22,500 in the property owner would be responsible for $7500!
Our community has experienced tremendous growth and expansion in recent years, earning a number one ranking in 2021 for small-size metro areas with the most economic development projects happening for the eighth time since 2007. Incentivizing businesses and industries to come to our community can be a complicated dance, but I’m optimistic for our future. In my opinion, we must continue to diversify and recruit varied industries, stores, and restaurants. If you have business and industry ideas that you would like to see expand into Sioux City, please reach out!