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April 14, 2013

Prosperity linked to private investment, state official says

TERRE HAUTE — Increasing private investment is a key to community prosperity and increasing assessed property values, said Dax Norton, executive director of the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs.

“Private investment, private dollars, private sector, market forces, is what makes communities prosper. Leadership gets you there and education gets you there, but ultimately at the end of the day it is people investing in their time, their talent and skill. That brings in private investment … and that is what will make us strong again,” Norton said Friday as guest speaker at the Taxpayers Association annual meeting at Idle Creek Banquet Center.

Public dollars can be used to enhance private investment. Examples include Community Development Block Grants for sewer and water systems. With such improved systems, the private sector can make improvements and new investments.

“For every dollar of taxpayer public money, our goal is to get $1.6 dollar of private outside investment,” Norton said. “Take that money as seed, strictly as a gap filler, for the private market. We help a community by making an investment in the gap filler.”

Statewide, Norton said per capita income has to increase.

“That is private dollars. It is what you get paid from your basic employer. It is done without going to the tax revenue model of rebuilding communities. It is private dollars, people making investments in their own communities,” he said.

Community prosperity is among OCRA’s top goals, Norton said.

“We want to increase assessed values, not for the purpose of increased tax revenues. We believe AV is a measure of the quality of a place. We believe that an increase in assessed value means that people are investing,” Norton said. “The market says this is a value place to be.”

The goal is to increase the state’s overall assessed value by $3.9 billion or a 2-percent statewide increase by 2016.

“We know that there are some counties that are dramatically decreasing in AV because of a new system [from a statewide reassessment with new tax tables] and some counties that are dramatically increasing. We are working with the Department of Local Government Finance and other organizations to see where this all comes out in the mix.

“New housing starts should increase AV and new businesses should increase AV,” he said. Increasing assessed value broadens a tax base and can hold taxes relatively stable, he said.

Norton said the state has a way to go to match its pre-economic downturn marketplace.

In 2007, there were historical unemployment rates in 76 Indiana counties. It will take 44,100 jobs to be created by April 1, 2016 to return the state to previous employment levels, Norton said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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