Our community is still buzzing about the news that a multi-million dollar outlet mall is coming to Rockford, but scoring that project didn't come with out a fight because two area communities competed for the retail development.
That tug of war often leaves the loser of the battle bruised and possibly bitter, but one proposal being discussed calls for a truce.
The outlet mall could have ended up in Machesney Park at the I-90/173 interchange. But Rockford beat out Machesney Park and Landmark Development plans to break ground in October on a retail project that means hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars into Rockford's economy.
That battle concerned Rockford Alderman Jeff Holt. Now he's proposing that everyone in Winnebago County even out the playing field. Holt is exploring developing an agreement among all municipalities in Winnebago County.
The agreement would make the sales tax incentive even meaning no offer to a retail developer could be better than anyone else’s. The developer would base their decision on services, infrastructure, and site access instead of money.
Alderman Holt says, "The reality is we rely heavily on retail sales tax in order to support city's operations. When we start getting into bidding wars with the communities and giving away those resources that are used to pay for our citizens streets and services then we really are not serving the citizens well."
Holt would like to see Rockford be aggressive with this matter and offer a 100 percent rebate on sales taxes for a five-year period. This would only go to the right retail developments and would only be offered until the playing field evens up.
Anyone interested would still have to come to the city and if the city decides that it makes sense to offer a financial incentive they would enter into an agreement and then the rebate would be offered. This proposal still has to come before city committees and the Rockford City Council.