Austin City Council weighs economic incentive deal for HID Global

Austin City Council members delved into the details of a proposed economic incentive package Sept. 12 for HID Global, which announced plans to hire 276 employees and build a new facility in North Austin.

"This project has been three years in the making," said Dave Porter, senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

HID Global plans to construct a $30 million, 200,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center on 19 acres behind the Shops at Tech Ridge development at 601 Center Ridge Drive. The company is based in Irvine, Calif., and is a secure identities solutions company.

Kevin Johns, the city's director of economic growth, said the incentive package would involve tax rebates of about $90,000 per year for 10 years, amounting to $920,576. He said this amount is the third or fourth highest the city has offered in the last five years. The last economic incentive deal was in March for $8.6 million to Apple Inc.

The city uses a matrix system to calculate a company's economic value to the city and its effect on the community. During the 10-year period, the city will see $2.24 million in net benefits.

Johns was among city staff and representatives from HID Global to answer questions during a specially called meeting Sept. 12 where more than a dozen residents gave their input, many indicating their desire to see the company offer wages that allow disadvantaged workers to improve their lives and living situation.

Gregorio Casar from the Workers Defense Project, a member-based organization that empowers low-income workers to achieve fair employment through education and other actions, said census data from 2010 shows an increase in the number of families of four making less than $23,000 and a decrease in families making more than $46,000. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reported the 2012 poverty guideline for a family of four is $23,050.

Casar said the organization would like HID Global to create decent jobs and assist disadvantaged workers by creating a pipeline to help construction workers get the necessary training for safer jobs.

"We can partner with HID, we can offer these incentives for them to come to Austin, but we need to stand tough on our values, that if you're going to come to Austin and we're going to invest in you, then please invest in us also," he said.

Kimberle Marquardt, HID Global's human resources director, said 85 percent of the newly created jobs would not require a college degree. The average pay will be $51,398, and Marquardt said the 18 lowest-paying jobs are at $11 per hour. She said all jobs come with benefits that include medical, dental and vision coverage, averaging about $26 per biweekly paycheck for an individual and $110 for family coverage.

Councilwomen Laura Morrison and Sheryl Cole indicated they want the incentive package to include a minimum wage requirement for employees and construction workers. Morrison said she would like that set at $15 to $16 per hour for employees and $12 hour for construction workers to help disadvantaged workers.

Cole said she worked with the Workers Defense Project to draft language she would like included in the economic incentive proposal for HID Global. The language she would like to see states than an applicant for an economic incentive package "shall make good faith efforts to ensure 15 percent of non-licensed construction work hours are completed by disadvantaged workers who have graduated from construction craft training program."

Cole said a disadvantaged worker either lacks a high school diploma or GED, has a criminal record or has an income of less than 60 percent of the Travis County median family income.

"When we're having more and more workers and families fall into the safety net, and as we make outreach to companies around the world to come to Austin to create opportunities, we do not want anyone left out of those opportunities," she said.

Social safety net programs are aimed at preventing someone from falling below the poverty line.

Council members set a public hearing for Sept. 27 at 4 p.m. at City Hall, 301 W. Second St.

By Amy Denney
Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and then senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition and covering transportation. She is now managing editor for the nine publications in the Central Texas area.


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