One of the biggest obstacles to bringing new businesses with large numbers of jobs to the inner city is finding enough land to accommodate them. A company that wants to build a factory, a warehouse or an office complex needs a large tract of land. But the city of St. Louis is chopped up into thousands of small lots, and persuading dozens of owners to sell out in order to assemble one large piece of ground can be tricky. In rundown neighborhoods, property may have been abandoned and its owners hard to find. Some lots may contain the toxic residue of long-gone enterprises - an expensive problem to neutralize.
As a result, many developers won’t even consider putting big projects in urban areas. Consequently, major development moves to the fringes of suburbia where open fields and farm land are easier to come by. Meanwhile, city neighborhoods continue to decay, suffering from high unemployment, an eroding tax base, crumbling infrastructure and bleak prospects for the stability that jobs bring. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has a plan to address the problem: large-scale state tax credits for large-scale developments (75 acres or more) in distressed city neighborhoods. It’s an intriguing idea, although the particulars of his plan may be too generous . . .
. . . The basic concept of giving tax credits for large-scale land assembly is a good one, provided that the credits are given to projects that bring good-paying jobs to poor neighborhoods. The return to the state - which Mr. Kinder projects as $10 for every $1 given in land assemblage credits - would be income and property taxes, reduced expenses for government services consumed by grinding poverty and the stanching of urban decay.
Mr. Kinder, a Republican from Cape Girardeau, is a rare bird in state politics: a rural politician with a genuine interest in urban problems and a fondness for St. Louis in particular. He bridges the rural-urban split that so often poisons state politics and stalls development.
On this issue, he also spans party lines. His idea has the support of Mayor Francis Slay and Mike Jones, executive assistant to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley. All three are Democrats. If more politicians were able to look beyond geographic and party boundaries to try to solve problems, Missouri would be a more prosperous place.