Report: California Firms Rake in State Subsidies, But Just One Does in Marin

Five cents of every dollar in the state budget goes to incentive programs in California, a Novato firm is the only taking advantage of those programs in Marin, a new study by the New York Times shows.

Lucrative local government incentives total $4.17 billion annually in California, but only one Marin County company has gotten in on the action, according to a study done by the New York Times.

The newspaper spent 10 months investigating business incentives awarded by hundreds of cities, counties and states, compiling a database of them since there is no nationwide accounting of these incentives. 

It found that California's $4.17 in annual incentives pales in comparison to the $19.1 billion in subsidies doled out in Texas, the state with the most robust incentive programs, but still amounts to 5 cents of every dollar in the California state budget.

The leading kinds of incentives in California were corporate income tax credits, rebates or reductions, at $2.29 billion, followed by other income tax breaks ($1.44 billion) and sales tax refunds or exemptions ($386 million), according to the Times.

The report found that California's booming agriculture industry receives the largest chunk of that funding in the state at $208 million annually, while the film industry received $191 million and tech ranks third with $105 million.

A tiny chunk of the subsidy pie comes to Marin County. The only local company that the Times data shows to have benefited from subsidies is Design Build Specialists, a Novato-based residential design-build firm that received $7,890 in 2010. In comparison, Santa Clara County companies took in almost $60 million in subsidies over the last 10 years.

Mark Labourdette, the president of Design Build Specialists, said he was just sitting down for a meal at Rickey’s Restaurant when he spotted an newspaper item detailing how firms can get a return on some of their payroll taxes through educational programs.

“It was a boatload of work,” Labourdette said of the governmental paperwork. “But we were getting back some of our tax money.”

Specifically, the company applied to the California Employee Training Panel for funding. Labourdette said he was told that the fund had dried up last year, but its website is currently active. It reads: “The Employment Training Panel provides financial assistance to California businesses to support customized worker training to attract and retain businesses that contribute to a healthy California economy, provide workers with secure jobs that pay good wages and have opportunities for advancement, assist employers to successfully compete in the global economy and promote the benefits and ongoing investment of training among employers.”

Design Build Specialists has ongoing training for its employees, and Labourdette said the incentive allowed him to continue to improve his workforce. He cited training field employees how to apply accounting practices to their work as an example of how the firm was making stronger and more well rounded employees.

“Most employers don’t know that this is available to them,” Labourdette said.

Incentive Programs Amount Company Type of Grant # of Grants Years Received $7,890 Design Build Specialists Inc. Free Services 1 2010

Click here for the full New York Times' report.


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