May 24, 2020

Houlton leaders to discuss creating TIF districts

HOULTON – With dreams of bringing more businesses to the municipality and helping established companies expand, town officials will meet tonight to discuss a plan that could make both fantasies a reality.

Town councilors, administrators and economic development leaders will discuss in detail tonight a plan to develop Tax Increment Financing Development Districts in three portions of the municipality.

Officials have discussed both TIFs and TIF districts several times in the past.

Ranked as an economic development device, TIF aims to enhance and invite investment in a specific portion or district of a town. Councilors adopted a TIF policy for Houlton last summer.

Officials are hoping to peg a portion of the manufacturing plant Tate & Lyle, the Airport Industrial Park and a section of North Street as the three TIF development districts.

Town Manager Doug Hazlett stressed Tuesday that is was important to remember the designation of a TIF district “does not, in itself, grant any tax relief on future development,” but simply indicates a location within the municipality that might be eligible for one. It also allows for TIF proceeds to be used for development projects.

“Creating a TIF district in no way gives back any tax dollars,” he said Tuesday. “It just says that these are places in town that we want to grow and also sends that message to the state.”

Hazlett said he believes establishing TIF zones will stimulate economic development, guard or create jobs, and encourage investment to bolster business establishment and expansion.

Tate & Lyle, which was formerly A.E. Staley Manufacturing, produces modified tapioca starches and ingredients for prepared foods and the paper industry. The business was established in Houlton more than 20 years ago.

Local leaders have hailed the Airport Industrial Park as an ideal location for industrial development. The Smith and Wesson Corp., which is one of the world’s largest providers of firearms and other security accessories, is located within the park.

Both facilities are expanding or planning an extension of their sites.

Houlton’s North Street has been sprouting a growing number of businesses for more than a decade, and some existing establishments are currently growing in size or studying the feasibility of doing so.

Branding these areas as TIF districts could advance current and future growth, according to local officials.

Hazlett said Tuesday that he anticipates the town will look into creating a downtown TIF district later this summer.

Last year, consultants who drafted the Houlton Downtown Revitalization Plan advised officials to establish the downtown as a TIF district.

The group, which drafted the assertive blueprint aimed at reinvigorating Market Square, speculated that the move would give businesses an incentive to establish in the downtown and reel in money for the town to use for economic development.

The TIF work session will begin at 6:30 tonight.

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