Wages a factor in tax breaks: Officials look at overall benefits to area residents

If you live in Bargersville, chances are you make more than residents in neighboring communities.

But local officials said they are constantly striving to boost their residents’ incomes, by bringing in higher paying jobs and even turning down requests for incentives from companies looking to expand or relocate if the wages aren’t high enough.

Across the county, the median household income strongly varies, from a high of $70,833 in Bargersville to a low of $38,571 in Edinburgh, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Closely behind Bargersville are Whiteland at $67,679 and Prince’s Lakes at $67,500.

Hovering near the middle are two of the county’s largest communities — with Franklin at $51,033 and Greenwood at $54,176.

Both have unemployment rates of less than 5 percent, but both also have two of the county’s highest rates — 12 percent or more — of people living in poverty.

The number of people living in poverty is a concern to local leaders, who say they want to bring in new companies with jobs that will boost wages.

In the last couple months, Greenwood turned down incentive requests to four different companies who were interested in coming to the area because the wages they planned to offer weren’t high enough, Mayor Mark Myers said.

That included one company that would have added nearly 500 jobs, but with pay of about $12 per hour and no benefits, he said.

“The city is in a sweet spot right now, where we can pick and choose who we want to work with,” Myers said.

What a company plans to pay per hour and what benefits it will offer employees are key factors city officials look at when considering tax break requests or other incentives, Myers and Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said. Cities also consider the total investment the company is making into both a building or property and the equipment they will bring, they said.

“If you come with lower paying jobs, you’re not going to get as much of a tax abatement,” Barnett said.

Barnett is interested in a high number of jobs, but wants to see wages that pay more than the county average of $18.50 per hour, he said.

“The more jobs the better, but it is also about that rate, it’s not always about number of jobs,” Barnett said.

Franklin has been focused on landing companies that offer higher wages for jobs that require higher skills, such as robotics or science-focused work, such as B2S Labs downtown, he said. Officials are currently working with a few companies considering locating in Franklin that would bring new jobs with higher wages, he said.

Greenwood is currently considering a tax break for Monsanto, which is planning to employ six to 10 people with salaries of $60,000 to $90,000.

But in addition to bringing in companies that pay higher wages, communities also need to be sure their residents are trained to work those jobs, which would help lower both the unemployment and poverty rates, Myers and Barnett said.

That’s why both communities want to focus on making sure their residents are getting the education they need to be the employees that companies need, they said.

That includes working with Ivy Tech Community College and Central Nine Career Center, Barnett said.

The programs Central Nine has to offer, which includes adult education and certifications for trades, such as welding, can be a big help to people not interested in attending college but who still want to make a good wage, Myers said.

“The more education you get, the more valuable you are to a company,” Barnett said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.