PIMA COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) –Monsanto has said it is going ahead with plans to build a seven-acre greenhouse facility near Marana.
The company said it will do so without tax breaks from Pima County.
“We are now dedicated, more than ever, to investing in this community, regardless of the Foreign Trade Zone Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement proposal,” the company said in a news release. “As discussions with Pima County have advanced, it is clear that further investments in workforce development are necessary for Monsanto and other businesses to grow successfully in the community. In order to make those investments possible, Monsanto is withdrawing the Foreign Trade Zone proposal and moving forward with several commitments to the area.”
Here is the full statement from Amanda McClerren, Monsanto project strategy lead:
We are excited to be a part of Pima County and are committed to being a good neighbor in the community with this greenhouse that combines Arizona’s climate with our sustainable practices to help produce corn seeds that will help farmers around the world. Good neighbors listen and communicate with each other, so we value the recent opportunity to do just that.
We are now dedicated, more than ever, to investing in this community, regardless of the Foreign Trade Zone Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement proposal. As discussions with Pima County have advanced, it is clear that further investments in workforce development are necessary for Monsanto and other businesses to grow successfully in the community. In order to make those investments possible, Monsanto is withdrawing the Foreign Trade Zone proposal and moving forward with several commitments to the area. They include our contribution to the Marana Unified School District Foundation of up to $500,000 (a contribution in lieu of taxes), our plan to create a community advisory panel (CAP) comprising members of the area to advise us on opportunities to engage with the community and our plan to voluntarily report restricted use pesticide (RUP) usage at the greenhouse.
We appreciate the opportunities over the past three-and-a-half months to meet and hear from others in Arizona’s agricultural community who support all types farming and to share information about who we are and our new greenhouse project. As we withdraw our Foreign Trade Zone Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement proposal with Pima County, we renew our commitment to ongoing conversations with our new neighbors as we begin construction and continue to invest in the community. We would like to thank the many community members that have engaged on this matter, and it is clear that Pima County is a place that supports business and innovation.
Monsanto purchased a 155-acre unused agricultural site near Twin Peaks and Sanders Roads.
The company plans to invest nearly $100 million in the facility to develop and grow genetically modified corn.
The decision is receiving mixed reviews from county officials.
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says the decision not to pursue tax breaks takes away a county safeguard.
While Monsanto has agreed to continue to voluntarily report certain aspects of its experiments, the fact that it is voluntary is a concern to Huckelberry.
He believes the tax deal gives the county a negotiating point and leverage to have a dialogue that is beyond just “voluntary.”
“What leverage we had,” he said, “we don’t have anymore.”
While he admits that some say it wasn’t much leverage, “it was some,” he added.
“Our ability to communicate with Monsanto and obtain information is going to be basically now only at their good will,” he said.
However, District 5 Supervisor Richard Elias, who opposed the tax deal, feels the county “didn’t lose anything at all.”
He believes the county didn’t have any leverage, even with the tax abatement.
“What we had was a voluntary committee. They’re going to continue to follow through what they’re doing out there,” he said. “But that didn’t give us any regulatory authority or any power to change anything.”
He feels the savings of about $370,000 on the tax deal was reason enough for the protesters to oppose it and called it a victory.
“I think they won the right to use a half million dollars a year in tax money for school districts and for Pima County in a good way,” he said. “I’m not sure that money means a lot to Monsanto but it means a heck of a lot to Pima County.”
But Huckelberry believes there may be a silver lining despite the loss of leverage.
Monsanto, a large international company, chose Pima County because it has many attractive things to offer and feels other companies may see the same.
“Those fundamentals are still in place,” he said.
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