Call to action to save an economic engine

The federal Historic Tax Credit, is on the chopping block, yet that might not make economic sense, according to the Rutgers Univesity’s Annual Report on the Economic Impact of Historic Tax Credit for FY 2015.

Those seeking to rally opposition include Debbie Sheals, a local preservation consultant, and state and national nonprofits, Missouri Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Tax Credit Coalition.

Here’s how you can get involved if you’re ready to take action:

Here’s a call to action from two nonprofits, the National Trust Community Investment Corp. and Missouri Preservation, headquartered in St. Louis. Here’s a factsheet, too.

Here’s a factsheet from the Historic Tax Credit Coalition and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

How do I know this isn’t fake news?

Why should you believe the Federal Historic Tax Credit is an economic engine?

Thinking critically and demanding proof is part of my job as a journalist. I look for information that comes from agencies and organizations that have “no dog in the fight,” — impartial researchers.

In this case, the research was done by Rutgers University in New Jersey. The university in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is employed by the National Park Service, and the university is independent of the National Park Service and won’t benefit from the results.

In addition, Rutgers is a valid research organization. It isn’t simply a back room in a foreign country.

What the report shows

In Fiscal Year 2015, the report shows, the Federal HTC $5 billion in spending yielded $4.8 billion in Gross Domestic Product. Yes, that’s a loss. But looking at the tax credit from its inception, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, the program has cost $120.8 billion but yielded $134.7 in GDP.

The report also notes that 55% of the certified rehabilitation projects in FY 2015 were located in low and moderate income census tracks.

Take a look at the report: Rutgers Univesity’s Annual Report on the Economic Impact of Historic Tax Credit for FY 2015.

Local example

In journalism, news values include proximity. We humans seem to care more about what’s near us or who we know.

Here is a link to an article I wrote in 2010 about the renovation — and tax credits for the project — of the Nowell building on Walnut Street by John Ott. He states clearly that projects like this depend on tax credits, yet those same tax credits hardly make him wealthy, he said. The tax credits make renovations economically possible.

Here’s more information about the article I wrote that was published in the Columbia Business Times.

Notable Properties: Historic Renovation Boosts Community Commerce — What if historic renovation made economic sense? Many say it does including Richard King, who operates The Blue Note, a thriving live music venue housed in the first building named to the Notable Properties List by the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission. The article can also be viewed on the Columbia Business Times website.

But don’t take my word for it — think critically and demand proof — and feel free to do your own research. And let me know what you learn. As a journalist, I can never have too much information.

Historic renovation makes economic sense

John Ott, who has renovated several historic buildings, says historic renovation makes financial sense.

His ideas are explained in full in a February 20, 2010 article in the Columbia Business Times.

His most recent example is the Berry Building. For years, the building had been used as a warehouse. Then it went into decline and then under-use with retail space and later fell into significant disrepair.

But a few years ago, Ott bought the building and renovated it. Today, it houses a Wilson’s Fitness Center and includes luxury condominiums, which will provide housing for people to live downtown in the midst of what is becoming a thriving arts community. In February 2010, the building was named to Columbia’s Notable Properties list by the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission.

So what criteria can be used for measuring increased economic use? Ott uses utility meters. He said when he bought the building, it had three or four utility meters. Now it has 21 meters, all of which will be in use when the housing units are occupied.

Renovation isn’t some pie in the sky, good for you thing to do. It makes good economic sense. While in disrepair, the building was only returning to the utility company, in this case the city of Columbia, a return on three or four meters. When it is fully occupied, the utility company will be making money on 21 meters. And that makes good sense for the utility company and for John Ott, who now has a fully function, economically solvent building.