New initiative shared with commissioners

HURON – Counties with zoning laws that embrace livestock development projects would benefit from sales and use tax rebate dollars, under a new initiative just getting off the ground within the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, a community development representative for the agency said Tuesday.
“If a project qualifies, it has to do two things – two triggers,” Scott Amundson said in a meeting with Beadle County commissioners.
“It has to be approved with a new county conditional use permit that you guys would do and it has to add livestock to the state,” he said.
Qualifying projects could be feedlots, hog units, poultry, dairy, aquaculture or others, he said.
Gov. Kristi Noem and Steve Westra, commissioner of GOED, have placed livestock development as a high priority in the administration.
“Just like most economic development organizations regionally and locally our main core values are to help businesses create good paying jobs with benefits, enhance, diversify and grow the tax base and improve the quality of life for all South Dakotans,” Amundson said.
Since they were created by legislators in 2013, South Dakota has made use of sales and use tax rebate programs to attract industries such as manufacturing and wind energy. The idea has now been expanded to include livestock development.
But only those counties that have zoning ordinances, like Beadle County, can take advantage of the program. Twenty-two counties in South Dakota, primarily West River, have no zoning laws on the books.
“How this is going to be different is that instead of the developer or the business getting this rebate back, our office would work with that developer and have them assign it directly back to the county,” Amundson said.
Significant dollars would be involved with no strings attached, he said. A county could use the funds to purchase a new road grader, to fix roads or to support the sheriff’s office budget.
A key component, however, is for the county to maintain local control, Amundson emphasized. He said it doesn’t change any rules or regulations the county currently has in place.
“You still have to go through the proper protocol and procedures and zoning and ordinances and this should not play any part of your approval or denial process,” he said.
“But it’s an incentive  and a reward for those counties that are more receptive for agriculture development,” he said. “Some are and some aren’t.”
The first application under the project was for a proposed $50 million dairy a few counties to the east, he said. Of that, $30 million would be taxable, so the county stood to benefit from $1.3 million in a sales and use tax rebate.
“But they had to deny it because there was a well that was discovered too close to the property,” Amundson said.
The state Department of Energy and Natural Resources was involved in the process, and denial was the right thing to do, he said.
“We haven’t even gone to the finish line in any of these, this is so brand new,” Amundson said. “So there are still things we’re learning and there’re still projects that are surfacing.”
GOED officials will work with developers of proposed projects in the county. Still, local control is a major factor.
“It has to be a good fit in your eyes,” he told commissioners. “Some counties see ag development as a good fit and some do not and that’s fine.
“But if you view it positively, and I think Beadle County has in the past, it could be very beneficial in a lot of different ways,” Amundson said.   
Noem and Westra want to see increased production in agriculture and livestock in South Dakota, he said. Under the program, there are no minimums or maximums in terms of the size of project, and no job creation component.
“It’s just another tool in our tool box that we can use to compete with other projects and other competing agencies,” he said.


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