Despite a unanimous decision by the City Council on Monday to waive $30,000 in fees and permit costs, a West Los Angeles business owner expected to bring 50 jobs to the city said he isn't sure he should move his operation to Ventura.
"The city has made it very difficult to relocate," said John Edwards, owner of Edwards Label Inc., a company that manufactures promotional labels and coupons. "They just don't seem to want to work with business people."
The waiver approved by the council lowers Edwards' cost for fees and permits to $104,249 for the $3-million project.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Edwards Label would spend about $1.96 million to install equipment and $1.7 million to construct a two-story, 37,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at Knoll Drive south of McGrath Street, a parcel Edwards says he purchased three weeks ago.
The city anticipates the label business would generate about $6,000 in annual property taxes, and eventually $2,398,560 in payroll taxes.
Edwards said that in exchange for his investment, the city should waive the fees it is charging for building and planning permits, for checking the architect's plans and for the extra traffic the project would generate.
"He wants us to close the gap to make his project bankable," said David Kleitsch, the city's economic development manager. "We are willing to help him toward that objective, but we are not going to make unbankable projects bankable."
After the meeting, Mayor Jim Friedman said Edwards never asked him for additional financial concessions.
"We would absolutely like to see his business here," Friedman said.
Should the deal go forward, city officials say Edwards Label would relocate 25 permanent full-time jobs, add 25 new full-time positions during the next five years, and create 95 temporary jobs during construction. The city estimates it would recoup $122 for each $1 it invested in the Edwards deal.
The city would use funds from its economic development program account to offset $30,000 of the $134,249 required fee and permit costs. But Edwards said that may not be enough.
"As far as I am concerned, they should have waived the entire fee to bring us into the city," he said.
Kleitsch said that while some other cities Edwards is considering, such as Camarillo, Santa Ana and Corona, may have lower or no fees, Ventura's policy is to provide incentives to attract businesses, not to get into a bidding war.
"We think our community is better as far as quality of life, and we have higher fees," said Kleitsch, making a point Edwards concedes.
"Fees in Ventura are higher, but other locations don't have pumpkin patches and ocean views," said Edwards, whose clients include Balance Bars.
After some discussion, the council also unanimously approved spending an additional $218,000 to build the Buenaventura Mall Transit Center, bringing the cost of the project to $718,000.
City Manager Donna Landeros was authorized to hire Boyle Engineering to design the facility for $67,500. Tom Mericle, the city's project manager on the transit center, anticipates the design will be completed by December and that construction will begin in April.