ANDERSON — The No. 1 issue since the 1980s when it comes to electing a mayor of Anderson has been job creation.
Every mayor since the administration of Republican Tom McMahan has had as a primary focus encouraging investment by companies and the creation of new employment opportunities.
Incumbent Democrat Thomas Broderick Jr. is seeking a second term in November and is being challenged by Republican Rick Gardner, the current Madison County auditor, and Libertarian Rob Jozwiak, a local business owner.
“We will continue to be aggressive in seeking economic development growth in the future,” Broderick said. “We will continue to hold the incentives down more than was done in the past.”
He said the 50% of the investments over the past six years have come since he took office in 2016.
“We want to open new areas to future development,” Broderick said. “We’re looking for new sites for investment.”
The Anderson Advanced Manufacturing Program, offering job training to local residents, will continue going into 2020, he said.
“We have to have a strong workforce available to employers,” Broderick said. “The jobs being created are offering better wages and the chance for advancement.”
During his first term Broderick said no company has been offered the standard 10-year, 100% tax abatement, adding his administration is offering a 70% to 75% tax abatement for seven years.
“Anderson is well placed because of our location,” Broderick said. “We can be more selective and see the higher quality pay and continue to diversify our economy.”
The city is looking to attract data delivery and non-industrial businesses to help diversify the economy, he said.
Gardner said he is continuing to work on the details of an economic development strategy.
“There will be some changes when it comes to economic development,” Gardner said. “I’m still working to put a plan together.”
Gardner agreed there has been new investments and job creation in south Anderson in the tax increment financing (TIF) areas.
“All the growth is south of 53rd Street,” he said. “We’re not seeing the benefits.”
Gardner said Anderson is offering tax abatements and incentives through the TIF funding, but many workers do not live in the city.
“They work here but the income tax revenues go to their home counties,” he said.
Gardner said he wants to encourage growth outside the TIF areas.
“There are other areas that can be developed,” he said.
The Anderson Redevelopment Commission recently amended the consolidated development plan to include the former Edgewood Plaza.
Jozwiak said job creation is the first priority. He said the city should be looking at ways to provide opportunities apart from financial inducements for companies to locate in Anderson.
“We need to lower the utility costs,” he said.
Jozwiak said the city should look for ways to lower the cost of electricity and water as a means to encourage investment.
“We haven’t used the TIF properly,” he said. “Those funds should have been used to pay for the new well field and not paid for through a rate increase.”
Jozwiak said he understands that tax abatements are used to attract investments.
He also supports the newly created training program through a partnership of the city with local companies. Jozwiak said the local companies should be providing more of the funding.
Jozwiak said local leaders should take advantage of the fact that Vice President Mike Pence at one time represented Madison County in the U.S. House.
“Mike Pence owes us,” he said. “He was our representative when the jobs exited from this area.”
Jozwiak said the Indianapolis metropolitan market is ready to come to Anderson.
“We need to work with the state to attract companies to the city,” he said. “We have a unique opportunity.”
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.