By Murphy Woodhouse for Arizona Daily Star
After months of private negotiations, the details of Pima County’s deal with agribusiness giant Monsanto are now public.
According to the terms, which are set to go before the Board of Supervisors for approval this week, Pima County will lend its support to the company’s application to the U.S. Commerce Department for a 10-year free-trade-zone designation, which comes with substantial savings in county property taxes.
In exchange, Monsanto pledges to spend at least $90M on its 7-acre automated corn-growing greenhouse; employ at least 25 full-time and 25 part-time workers at an average annual salary of at least $44,000; and provide health, dental, and retirement benefits.
The greenhouse will be on agricultural land near the intersection of Twin Peaks and Sanders roads near Marana and will employ a number of water-conserving measures. The company intends to break ground before the end of 2016.
A free-trade-zone designation substantially lowers property tax assessment ratios, in this case from the property’s current 15 percent ratio to 5 percent.
Assuming the company spends roughly $95M on the project, its estimated county primary and secondary property tax bill for the first year would be nearly $190K, according to county calculations. Without the designation, that bill would be more than $500K. The previous owners paid just shy of $2,000 in all property taxes in 2015 on the undeveloped agricultural land.
The agreement to be considered by the board deals only with the tax rates the county directly controls. Other taxing districts will have to work out their own arrangements.
The economic impact of the project is estimated at around $280 million between 2016 and 2025, according to an analysis conducted by Sun Corridor Inc.
Read more at Arizona Daily Star.