Cash incentive OK though jobs were never leaving
TAMPA - A rushed process and some mixed messages may have led Hillsborough County and city of Tampa leaders to assume 1,600 PricewaterhouseCoopers jobs here were in danger, city and county officials said Monday. Those officials met Monday to hash out ways to prevent future miscommunication over government subsidies for business. For now, though, no one is suggesting the city or county rescind any of the $1.2 million in incentives promised to PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC. County commissioners and Tampa City Council members approved the incentive package to PwC under the belief the company might move 1,633 jobs to South Carolina, India, Singapore or Argentina.They hoped the incentives would prompt the accounting giant to retain those jobs, build a new $78 million building in Tampa and create 200 new jobs. They were stumped last week after a PwC executive told the Tribune the jobs never were at risk of being moved anywhere. The rushed nature of the incentives deal might have caused some of the confusion, said Bob McDonaugh, Tampa's acting economic development administrator. Normally, city council members would vote on a big incentive package at one of their regularly scheduled board meetings.But the city's staff added the PwC issue late to a city council workshop at the request of the Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., or EDC, McDonaugh said. Hillsborough County staff also added the issue late to a county commission land use meeting. City and county staff agreed Monday to slow down the process and ask politicians to vote on them at regularly scheduled meetings, he said. Another problem was with a mixed message to elected leaders. City of Tampa staff pitched the incentives as a way to get PwC to make a $78 million financial investment. But Hillsborough County economic development officials billed it as a way to retain 1,633 jobs, McDonaugh said. The two governments need to better coordinate their message, he said. Bonnie Wise, Hillsborough County's chief financial administrator, told the Tribune last week the county would have to see if PwC still qualified for the incentives. That the jobs were considered "at risk" was a requirement for receiving the money. The company has said that it never considered moving the jobs imminently, but that its long-term future here could be uncertain without a new building. The Tribune asked Wise on Monday if the company still qualifies for the incentives. On Monday, Wise would not answer directly whether PwC still qualifies for the incentives. She said only that PwC has certified the incentives are necessary and the jobs were at risk.
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