Seattle Times editorial board favors data-center tax incentives. Here’s why they’re right.

The Times editorial gets right to the point.

When lawmakers return for business in January, they should reauthorize Washington’s server-farm tax break, and pronto.

Our September 2013 report, Economic Impact of Data Centers on Central Washington (clever title, that), helps explain why.

World class industries have located in Central Washington, providing stable, diversified em- ployment and expanded tax bases for local governments. The data center industry is among the notable additions to Central Washington’s resurgent economy. Data centers have benefitted Central Washington in several ways. They stabilize and expand the region’s tax base, generate millions of dollars in construction spending, and provide family wage jobs. Increased tax revenues are evident not only in smaller cities like Quincy, but countywide in Grant and Douglas counties. Data centers also give communities in Central Washington a key advantage in the quest for technology-based economic development. Men and women trained to work in data centers provide a talent base that other industries will find attractive. With industrial diversification taking root in the region, data centers add to the base of industries that will complement the region’s still-strong agricultural and food processing sectors.

Allowing the incentives to expire was, at best, short-sighted. At worst, it jeopardizes an important anchor of the state’s economy. From the Times editorial:

Microsoft’s DeLee Shoemaker warns the state’s attitude toward tech incentives “is making Washington uncompetitive for future siting decisions by Microsoft and other technology-based employers.”

Lawmakers need to take a pragmatic view. In a fluid business like tech, tax breaks are seldom a matter of giving money away — they are the price of attracting the business in the first place.

And it’s a very, very low price. Without the incentives, it’s quite possible that the investment wouldn’t happen at all. You can’t spend tax dollars you never collect.

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