The Cook County Board of Commissioners are considering changes to a property tax incentive program that would require higher construction wages in certain cases. But a collective of suburban mayors, law firms, real estate brokers and economic development professionals are urging the commissioners to reconsider, saying the amendment would drive away jobs and new development.
The new restrictions would affect the Class 6, 7a, 7b 8, L (Landmark) and C (environmental remediation) Property Tax Incentive program, requiring property owners and tenants to hire only construction workers that earn an Illinois “Prevailing Wage,” often higher than union scale. Those who object to the mandate claim that the added cost that a redevelopment project would incur will compel investors and employers to target Lake, DuPage or Will Counties, or Wisconsin or Indiana where no such requirements exist.
“Promoting economic development is an appropriate objective and necessary task for the county,” said John Nyhan, a partner in the law firm O’Keefe Lyons & Hynes who has played an active role in mobilizing real estate professionals and trade associations. “We believe, however, that the proposed amendment will in fact impede such activity due to the added costs and administrative burdens it imposes on those seeking assistance through the County Incentive Programs.”
John Coleman, an experienced commercial real estate veteran and vice president of the Association of Industrial Real Estate Brokers (AIRE), agreed last week in his testimony before the commissioners. “The incentive program does exactly what you want it to do—grow the tax base by stimulating investment in local communities,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to change a program in a way that has no chance of making it better.”
Organization like AIRE and the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR) oppose the measure because it will force investment and jobs from Cook County. Noting that broker members from AIRE and SIOR direct nearly 90 percent of all industrial transactions in Cook County and the greater Chicago Metro Area, Coleman said his property owner and occupier clients are joining in the fight.
“The incentive program puts Cook County on a level playing field when competing for local investment and jobs,” Coleman testified. “Neutering the program with these added costs will push new jobs and tax revenues somewhere else.”