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Wheeling leaders hoping tax credit won’t become history


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — After voting to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last week, U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said the measure should save a “middle-class family” nearly $1,200 per year, along with lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

Wheeling leaders, however, remain concerned because the legislation eliminates the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, which officials said helped the city attract employers such as Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Williams Lea Tag.

This is because developers used the 20 percent federal credit to rehabilitate the former Wheeling Stamping Co. structure to house Orrick, in addition to the historic Stone & Thomas department store to include Williams Lea.

“No mayor or economic development professional or developer I’m aware of thinks this is a good idea, and as mayor of a city with a healthy stock of historic structures, I find it incredibly short-sighted,” Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott said. “Imagine Wheeling without the renovation of (and economic activity from) the Wheeling Stamping building, the Stone Center, the Boury Lofts — none of those structures would have been rehabbed without federal and state historic tax credits.”

Even though he voted for a version of the bill which would eliminate the credit, McKinley, a Wheeling resident, said he hopes to still preserve it.

“We are expecting the Historic Preservation Tax Credit to be included in the final version,” he said after the vote.

The tax act that eliminates the federal credit passed the House by a vote of 227-205. Senators are now debating whether to let the entire 20-percent credit expire, allow it to remain in place at a reduced level or leave it in place. If the Senate passes its version of the act, a conference committee will meet to work through the differences.

“We have a clear choice here: Do we allow the status quo to continue, which only benefits the wealthy and politically connected? Or do we allow the process to continue and fight to ensure the final version is the best deal possible for the middle class and small employers?” McKinley said. “Some issues still need to be resolved in the final bill, and we will be closely monitoring the negotiations.”

Wheeling Heritage Executive Director Jake Dougherty said he believes, despite McKinley’s vote, that the congressman will do his best to preserve the credit. He and Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday said as many as 10 new downtown redevelopment projects could fail to materialize with the loss of the credit, including a significant housing project proposed for the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building.

“It’s a significant factor in whether or not investment occurs,” Dougherty said of the tax credit. “We are hoping the Senate can preserve it at the full level.”

“I cannot see how this would help any Rust Belt city that is trying to reinvent itself,”Scatterday added.

Recently, the West Virginia Legislature approved expanding the state credit for such work from 10 percent to 25 percent, which gave local leaders optimism that more redevelopment would be on the way.

“With the passage of that increase in the recent special session, the stage was set for investment in one or more Wheeling properties,” Elliott said. “But now, with the federal historic tax credit in jeopardy, longstanding conversations that we have been having with developers interested in rehabbing Wheeling buildings have been put back on hold.”

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