Lake Worth to consider ways to help bring jobs to city

City commissioners are expected to consider three economic development initiatives Tuesday intended to lure new employers to Lake Worth and create jobs.

At Tuesday night's meeting, commissioners will consider whether to ask the legislature to designate parts of the city as an enterprise zone — an economically depressed area that qualifies for tax breaks used to bring in employers — and whether to apply for a federal grant that could make the Lake Worth Park of Commerce more attractive to new businesses.

A third measure would authorize key city staffers, including the city manager, city attorney, economic development manager and director of community sustainability, to distribute and receive confidential information about companies that are considering moving to or expanding in Lake Worth.

Creating an enterprise zone would require a bill in the legislature but notably would not require matching money from the city. Incentives could be offered outside the enterprise zone if the city agreed to pay at least 20 percent of the cost.

An enterprise zone advisory committee would be established to consider applications and work with businesses interested in moving to Lake Worth. Incentives would include sales tax credits for job creation, sales tax refunds on the purchase of business equipment and corporate income tax breaks.

"Without incentives, it will be very difficult to attract job creators to the city," Mayor Pam Triolo said. "If you ask many of our citizens what they need most, they'll tell you a job."

One of every four Lake Worth residents, 25.3 percent, lives below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. One census tract in the southern part of the city has a poverty rate of 32.9 percent and an unemployment rate of 19.6 percent, according to a city analysis.

Six of the city's census tracts would qualify for an enterprise zone based on income and unemployment data, said Dolores Key, the city's economic development manager.

Two enterprise zones are already established in Palm Beach County — one in Pahokee, the other covering parts of Belle Glade, Riviera Beach, South Bay and West Palm Beach.

Commissioners also are expected to discuss Tuesday whether to apply for a $2.1 million grant from the Economic Development Administration to pay for improvements — including roads, drainage, water and sewer work and telecommunications lines — that could help attract companies to the Lake Worth Park of Commerce.

Commissioner Suzanne Mulvehill said improving the park of commerce is "absolutely critical," even though the federal grant requires a dollar-for-dollar match.

Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell said he is excited about the economic development initiatives because they address the need for jobs, a fundamental problem in the city.

"We're starting to take a more holistic look at what needs to be addressed," Maxwell said.


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