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County raises tax incentive amounts

By Jaime Powell  
February 7, 2008

CORPUS CHRISTI — Nueces County commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to amend their tax abatement policy in order to offer about $16 million in tax incentives to an Austin-based energy company planning to invest $1 billion revamping two power plants and creating dozens of high paying jobs.

Topaz Power Group proposes spending about $500 million modernizing the Barney M. Davis Power Station, which it operates, and another $500 million at the Nueces Bay Power Station, a closed three-unit plant next to the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. The two plants would generate electricity using high-efficiency systems and the company would sell it wholesale to local energy providers or to energy marketers who would pass it on to industrial customers such as refineries, company representatives said.

The county's move follows others by Del Mar College and the city of Corpus Christi that could give the company a combined $50 million in tax incentives during a seven-year period.

Incentives are designed to bring in businesses that are not presently paying taxes. The theory behind them is they help create jobs and after the incentives expire, taxing entities recoup their investment via a broadened economic base, quality jobs and additional property tax revenue.

If the projects move forward, the company would retain roughly 30 jobs at Barney Davis and create 25 to 35 jobs with salaries at about $75,000 at the revamped Nueces Bay facility. It also would create 400 to 450 construction jobs at each site for a year to 14 months, according to Barbara Clemenhagen, the vice president of commercial and external relations for Topaz Power Group.

The county and college's amended policies call for 100 percent abatements for the first two years and 70 percent for the next five. The tax incentives are available to any business or industry that brings a similar capital investment or jobs to the city, county officials said Wednesday.

The previous policies would have allowed them to offer tax relief for a seven-year period -- 100 percent abated for the first two years and 50 percent for the next five years.

The city has worked out an incentive package that includes one of the plants as part of an existing industrial district, and similar tax benefits for the other, incentives in which the company would pay $12.2 million in fees during a 10-year period instead of $41.5 million in property taxes.

All three of the taxing entities negotiated incentive packages with the company through the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation and its president and CEO Roland Mower.

"Everybody is coming together to support an increase to our tax base," said David Engel, the chairman of the economic development group's board of directors.

None of the three taxing entities has a formal request from the company for abatements, but the company has resolutions from all saying that the incentives will be granted based on the negotiations and criteria negotiated to date including the capital investment and number of jobs created.

Contact Jaime Powell at 886-3716 or powellj@caller.com

Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times