Originally published in the print edition of Yellowstone County News.
BILLINGS — It’s not without its critics.
The tax abatement program that Yellowstone County and the City of Billings use to incentivize business growth, expansion and recruitment is often viewed as a “free pass” for some businesses, but it is anything but that according to city and county officials.
“It’s an incentive to succeed,” described County Commissioner Denis Pitman.
The program has served Yellowstone County well, according to County Commissioner John Ostlund.
“Yellowstone County has more new business growth than anyone,” said Ostlund, who attributes much of that growth to the impact of the program, which has been used by the county as its primary economic development incentive for more years than anyone can remember.
It helps the county “throw out the welcome mat for business,” said Ostlund, proud of the county’s positive business attitude.
The fact that the tax incentive has always been granted to all qualifying applicants speaks clearly about the value that local public officials see in the program.
“It’s a tool to attract businesses and to incentivize projects that increase tax revenues,” explains Patrick Klugman, Community Development Project manager at Big Sky Economic Development (BSED), the agency that administers the program on behalf of the city and the county. The dollars that are saved by the businesses is not profit that is pocketed, explains Klugman.
“It is used to cover operational costs, to help hire new employees, or other costs of running the business,” he said.