Fresno giving The Gap a big tax break

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Gap wants to turn part of its massive, nearly 20-year-old warehouse facility near Fresno Yosemite International Airport into an e-commerce fulfillment center, and add more than 500 full-time employees along with hundreds more part-time and seasonal workers.

In exchange Fresno Mayor Lee Brand offered tax breaks, that would amount to about $15,000 for each full-time job that paid over $15 dollars an hour.

Brand said it was a necessary accommodation.

He said, "We are in a competitive situation, If we were Silicon Valley I guarantee we wouldn't be paying $15,000 a job, but we are not Silicon Valley, its Fresno California."

But the deal was criticized by Thomas Wyler of Faith in Fresno for not having some strings attached.

"Why is the city giving away my tax dollars while not doing everything it can to ensure those benefits actually trickle down and benefit families who need it the most?"

Councilmember Oliver Baines wanted guarantees those jobs would go to Fresno residents.

"If we are giving $15,000 as an incentive for an employee, hey man, that person needs to come from Fresno."

But The Gap's Scott Wade said such guarantees aren't possible.

"I do not believe we can legally do that, to require someone to live in a certain area as a condition of hiring."

Fresno's Economic Development Director, Larry Westerlund said based on other businesses, most employees would automatically be from Fresno.

"Over 60% of their employees, closer to 70% of their employers come from the city of Fresno."

The Gap did assure the council its job fairs and hiring efforts would be centered in the city of Fresno.

As part of the deal, Fresno will give up about $10 million in sales tax revenue in exchange for the jobs. But, the project is expected to pump about $2 million a year in sales and property taxes into city coffers over 30 years.

In the end, just councilmember Baines, and Council President Esmerelda Soria voted against the deal. It passed on a 4 to 2 vote. One councilmember was absent.
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