Panelists debated whether tax abatements bring valuable businesses to the community or if the cost is too high Thursday night.
The Lawrence-Douglas County League of Women Voters sponsored an informational meeting on tax abatements at the Douglas County Senior Services Center, with Allen Ford and Bill Martin presenting two sides of the issue.
While the two agreed that tax abatements might not be the first thing companies look for when locating their business, they disagreed whether abatements were beneficial.
Martin, director of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, argued that it can be the extra push that gets a company to locate here.
"They might come up with several communities or states ... that they feel might meet their needs," Martin said to about 25 listeners. "That's were incentives may become a factor. That may be the tie breaker.
"In Lawrence, really the only incentive we offer is the tax abatement."
Ford, a professor of business at Kansas University, said granting abatements sets a pattern. At some point, the cost to the community may outweigh the benefits.
"We're giving abatements to companies that don't need them and wouldn't ask for them if they weren't available," he said. "We're basically making many of our companies subsidy seekers."
With all Lawrence has to offer, he said, some firms will locate here anyway, without abatements.
"I think that the cost is just too high," he said. "We stack up very good as a business location."
Martin pointed out that Lawrence has been passed over several times for greener pastures.
"For every company we've relocated here in Lawrence, we've probably talked to 2,000."
The forum was part of the league's ongoing study of tax abatements.
-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.