North Bay City Councillor Mark King has serious concerns about the agreement to give Invest North Bay $1-million. Specifically, he’s worried about the $250,000 that was earmarked for Equity Investment as part of the presentation given by chairman George Burton. At the last meeting of council, Burton said the group was looking to invest that money with the greatest possible potential return on jobs and investment in the community. He said incentives could be given to businesses, and that they would be looking for job creation and return on investment when it comes to any equity stake in a business.
King believes that means they could use tax payer money to entice a company with a bonus to relocate to North Bay. He says he’s worried that this could create an un-level playing field for existing businesses in town, and added this is an issue that’s also on the front burner at the provincial and federal level. King says he hopes that the corporation will respect tax payer’s money, and make sure the playing field is level for everybody but he still has concerns. King did say however, that he would be supportive of the idea if the businesses brought into the city weren’t in direct competition with already established businesses.
Only three members of council, King, Mike Anthony, and George Maroosis, voted against the move initially. Other councillors spoke of a level playing field at the time, but that was about other communities that have already embraced similar initiatives. This kind of idea has been tried in the United States, and King says there’s no substantial evidence that it creates anything positive. He says the big question is if the industry that Invest North Bay puts money into fails, who is going to pay back the money to the tax payer who’s ultimately responsible for those dollars? King says that will be the question locally, and it’s also what the province and the federal government are dealing with. He says normally in a circumstance like that, the banks are going to take the first responsibility for the money. King says the banks will collect their money first before the taxpayer ever sees any money.
When asked if that meant whether there is any risk tolerance on the money Invest North Bay will give to companies, King says if a company fails the money is gone. King finished by saying the arrangement is pretty blank as it stands, and it’s not what he would call good business.