PhillyDeals: Corbett to allocate $350 million in capital grants

Posted: May 09, 2013

Gov. Corbett plans to give $350 million more to factory owners, developers, colleges, and museums later this year through a grant program against which he campaigned.

Not all who ask receive. In recent weeks, more than 200 new pleas for Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) matching funds, totaling $900 million, have piled up in Harrisburg, and many more are expected, said Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni.

Corbett approved 54 previous RACP proposals, totaling $125 million, this year. He turned down several hundred more.

"We'll review these proposals and score them based on criteria we outlined last year: the number of jobs created, the economic impact, the cultural impact, and how shovel-ready the project is," Pagni said.

The program was larger under Gov. Ed Rendell.

"In the past, some things were approved and just sat there for years," Pagni said. "They were done for political reasons, as a favor to somebody. [Corbett] realized the benefit of the program, but wanted to put reforms in place that would make it objective, so we could measure the effectiveness."

Measure how? The Corbett administration says the $125 million approved so far this year will "create or retain" about 56,000 jobs.

Do the math and that works out to a little more than $2,000 per job. Is that enough to create or retain a job? Or are Corbett's job numbers also shovel-ready?

The state now demands more job and financial details, and that's "an overall positive change," said Coleen Terry, president of ECON Partners Inc., in Wayne, which helps developers apply for RACP grants.

"RACP gets a bad rap sometimes," Terry said. Many people don't see why scarce tax dollars should fund projects that banks won't. But the state grants, mostly paid when a project is done, do attract private cash, and that's why both parties have ended up supporting RACP, Terry said, adding: "Governors like job creation."

Recently approved RACP matching grants for the Philadelphia area include:

$5 million for the University City Science Center's new medical offices building at 3737 Market St. The state claims this will create 100 temporary construction jobs and 229 new jobs, "retain" 500 existing jobs, and help preserve 900 "indirect" jobs.

$3 million to Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, the Philadelphia shopping-mall landlord, for improvements to the Gallery at Market East. The state says it expects 830 new jobs at the Gallery, 702 retained, 594 supported indirectly, and more than 300 temporary construction jobs.

Other local grants include $15 million for Brazilian chemical-maker Braskem's Marcus Hook plant, perhaps in hopes Braskem won't move the business to the much larger plant it's building in Mexico; $2 million to developer Equus Capital Partners for expansion of its Ellis Preserve corporate center in Newtown Square; $5 million for a loading dock at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and $5 million for the Philadelphia Zoo's Hamilton Family Center and Faris Family Education Center. And there are more.

There are legislators who have higher hopes for the next round. State Senate Bill 680 includes a long anonymous wish list of large Philadelphia projects: $30 million for InterContinental Hotels' proposed Indigo Hotel, $7.5 million for developer Eric Blumenfeld's Divine Lorraine conversion, $40 million for something called only Chariot Landing/International Row, which really tells no one anything, and dozens more.

The state posts data on RACP and tells how to apply on its budget website, www.budget.state.pa.us.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com and @PhillyJoeD.

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