Visa OK with more pay for builders

Visa

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Con­tact Kirk Laden­dorf at 445-3622.

Travis County com­mis­sion­ers last week ap­proved new rules for in­cen­tive deals that re­quire any com­pany look­ing to move to the county and ask­ing for a tax break to pay all em­ploy­ees at least $11 an hour, in­clud­ing con­struc­tion work­ers. Also last week, a City Coun­cil com­mit­tee rec­om­mended mak­ing $11 an hour Austin’s stan­dard for in­cen­tive pack­ages in all but ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances. The coun­cil hasn’t taken ac­tion yet on that pro­posal.

Brad By­ers, head of Visa’s real es­tate fa­cil­i­ties for the Amer­i­cas re­gion, told the coun­cil that the com­pany had de­ter­mined that the rel­a­tively lim­ited con­struc­tion in­volved at the pro­posed Austin site — Visa would in­vest at least $27.4 mil­lion to retro­fit and equip an of­fice build­ing at 12301 Re­search Blvd. — meant that agree­ing to a min­i­mum con­struc­tion worker wage wouldn’t af­fect the project.

If the project were be­ing built from the ground up, By­ers said, “It would be very im­pact­ful on the project in terms of the bud­get.” In that case, By­ers said, Visa wouldn’t agree to a min­i­mum con­struc­tion wage.

City of­fi­cials say their fis­cal im­pact model in­di­cates the Visa project would cre­ate a to­tal rev­enue ben­e­fit for the city of $6.8 mil­lion over 10 years. Their model es­ti­mates that Visa and its em­ploy­ees would gen­er­ate $21.8 mil­lion in taxes, fees and util­ity pay­ments over 10 years, while re­quir­ing $15 mil­lion in costs, which in­cludes the pro­posed lo­cal in­cen­tives.

Gov. Rick Perry al­ready has of­fered $7.9 mil­lion in in­cen­tives to Visa from the Texas En­ter­prise Fund. The state in­cen­tives of­fer de­pends on the ap­proval of city in­cen­tives for the project.

At least 70 per­cent of the 794 new jobs would be filled with lo­cal hires, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s con­tract with the city.

The global IT cen­ter is ex­pected to be pri­mar­ily a soft­ware devel­op­ment cen­ter to help the pay­ments gi­ant ex­pand and strengthen its al­ready ex­ten­sive ar­ray of fi­nan­cial prod­ucts and ser­vices.

Visa, which has about 8,500 work­ers world­wide, saw its global net­work process more than 77 bil­lion trans­ac­tions last year worth nearly $3.8 tril­lion.

Visa hasn’t spelled out just what role the new IT cen­ter would play, but an in­dus­try of­fi­cial said that com­pa­nies must con­tin­u­ally de­velop soft­ware to han­dle new ser­vices and pay­ment meth­ods, such as pay­ments made with mo­bile de­vices. The IT project ap­pears to be sim­i­lar to a 500-per­son IT cen­ter an­nounced for Austin by Gen­eral Mo­tors Corp. in Septem­ber. GM of­fi­cials said at that time that they con­sid­ered ad­vanced soft­ware devel­op­ment to be a crit­i­cal as­set for their com­pany.

The au­tomaker con­sid­ered seek­ing state and lo­cal in­cen­tives for its project but de­cided to forgo the process in or­der to get started sooner.

Austin Cham­ber of Com­merce of­fi­cials said the Visa deal fits with Austin’s re­cent pat­tern of lim­it­ing in­cen­tives deals to those in­volv­ing com­pa­nies propos­ing a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of jobs and con­sid­er­ing other sites.

“We have had 28 com­pa­nies move here this year, and only three have re­quired lo­cal and state in­cen­tives,” said Dave Porter, se­nior vice pres­i­dent for eco­nomic devel­op­ment at the cham­ber. “The big­ger deals are re­quir­ing in­cen­tives be­cause they can. Other cities are of­fer­ing them.”

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