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Editor's Notebook: Instead of a business tax, why not solicit voluntary support for the Economic Development Council?


We've heard some noise lately about a $35 per year tax the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and some of our county government people would like to collect from every business in the county, including businesses that already pay occupational license fees to our cities.

The purpose of this new tax, according to Chamber president Bob Bartz, is to help support the Economic Development Council (EDC) so that it can bring new businesses here to replace our defunct real estate and construction industries.

A worthy goal, indeed.

But the proposed method of raising money for the EDC -- a tax -- is not turning out to be popular among local small business owners. Not everybody in government thinks it's a good idea, either. In fact, Manatee County's Clerk of the Circuit Court and Chief Financial Office, Chips Shore, recently sent this comment about the proposed business tax to The Bradenton Times:

"There was a time prior to 1972 that Manatee County in conjunction with the State did have a business tax. It was called an occupational license tax... The Tax Collector at that time, Sam Cornwell, was against it because it would cost more to administer than it would bring in."

Current tax collector Ken Burton says the same thing: that a $35 per year business tax would cost more to collect than it is likely to generate in revenue.

Nobody is saying the EDC is a bad idea. The opposition is purely to the tax, especially in today's recession.

Why not promote small business EDC memberships?
The only obvious way to directly support the EDC right now is to become an investor, and the lowest level of investment, as an individual, is $500 per year.

How about a $50 -- or $60 or $75 -- small business EDC sponsorship level?  I'm sure plenty of local business owners would jump on an offer like this, especially if it offered a listing in business directories the EDC sends to companies thinking about a move to Manatee County.

Would this kind of low-cost, voluntary EDC membership bring in as much money as a $35 annual tax?

Maybe it would, and maybe it wouldn't. But it's certainly worth a try before we resort to a tax that seems to getting far more opposition than support from local business owners.


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