Ohio’s incentive programs can assist businesses undergoing expansion projects such as job creation, facility changes, employee training and energy management. But taking full advantage of them requires company resources to negotiate, apply for and manage these incentives. Putting together the right team can help negotiate the best deal and make realistic projections related to the project.

“Having the right team on both sides of the table — the company’s side and government side — can help secure an optimal incentive package,” said Marti Brenner, location and incentive practice leader at GBQ Partners LLC. “Not only will you get the best deal, but you also will alleviate issues and ensure the project remains on schedule.”

She says when your company is growing, you must simultaneously prepare the business for expansion while attempting to secure an incentive package. “Having the right team in place can help streamline the incentive process and avoid costly distractions.”

Smart Business spoke with Brenner about a few Ohio incentive programs and getting key people in place to manage the process.

What are some of the major incentive programs in Ohio?

A popular Ohio incentive program is the Job Creation Tax Credit, which is a refundable state income tax credit determined by net, new payroll in the state. Another prevalent program is the Ohio Workforce Guarantee Program, which offers a 50 percent reimbursement of your eligible training cost.

Property tax abatements, available locally, can offset up to 100 percent of that tax for up to 15 years through a Community Reinvestment Area or an Enterprise Zone.

A new program on the horizon creating a lot of buzz is the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program. It is expected to provide a 50 percent reimbursement of eligible training costs totaling up to $4,000 per trainee. The program was allotted $50 million in the state budget that will be disbursed over two state fiscal years — from July 1 to June 30. There is $20 million available this fiscal year and $30 million available in state fiscal year 2014. It is planned to be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

What are the steps you need to take in order to create a team? 

Every project presents different needs and the application of various incentive programs touches many aspects of a business. As a result, the ideal core dream team is comprised of a combination of the following:

  • Accounting, finance and/or controller — They tend to have easy access to company and project information including capital investment, operating costs and financing needs that typically are required information on the various incentive applications.  Completing accurate incentive applications will avoid issues in the agreements and/or costly mistakes in calculating incentive benefits.

  • Tax — Many of the incentive programs are tax credits, but more importantly analyzing and drawing attention to the positive economic impact will only enhance the incentive package offered.

  • Operations (plant manager or project engineer) — They are usually aware of operational and facility needs related to the project from building specifications to utility needs. It is a best practice to have identified these needs early in the discussions with state and local officials because it is difficult and sometimes impossible to secure additional incentives after commitments have been made.

  • Human resources — HR representatives tend to have a better understanding of the specifics when it comes to training, pay and benefits related to current and future employees. The HR representative is one of the most critical team members because of the application and ongoing reporting information associated with incentives. If ongoing incentive reports are not filed properly, your company may not realize the full, or any, benefit of the incentives awarded.

Depending on project plans, it’s critical for the core dream team to utilize other resources as ancillary team members at various points in the incentive process. Other dream team players may include:

  • Executive level — Officers of the company that have a thorough understanding of the company growth strategy and have final location or project decision authority.

  • Public relations — As many of the incentives involve approvals in a public setting, marketing and public relations professionals may help control the overall project message and information that may be published in the media.

  • Government affairs — Companies may tap these practitioners for their government relationships with state representatives and/or senators to raise political support for the project.

  • Legal counsel — Attorneys should review the various legal agreements between the state or local jurisdiction and the company, as it is a legal contract that often covers multi-year periods.

How can you stay on top of the latest news to be the first in line to apply for these incentives?

It all relates to partnering. The goal of economic development is to attract and partner with companies in the community. Incentive opportunities are sometimes missed if the company is not partnered with state and local economic development organizations. Even without a current expansion project, it is generally a best practice to develop relationships at the state and local levels, whether with the Development Services Agency, JobsOhio or your regional network partners such as, but not limited to, Columbus2020, Team NEO/Cleveland+ and Cincinnati USA Partnership. It is important to establish economic development relationships to give a name and face to the company.

Marti Brenner is the location and incentive practice leader at GBQ Partners LLC. Reach her at (614) 947-5287 or mbrenner@gbq.com.

Insights Accounting & Consulting is brought to you by GBQ Partners LLC

Published in Columbus