Harvard’s “Innovations in American Government Awards” competition is the nation’s premier program devoted to recognizing and promoting excellence and creativity in the public sector. Harvard’s program highlights outstanding ideas of government innovation and advances efforts to address the nation’s most pressing public concerns. Since its launch in 1985, the program has received over 27,000 applications and has recognized almost 500 government initiatives.
Of the initiatives recognized by Harvard is the City of Terrell’s program submission, showing a joint economic development program between Kaufman County and the City of Terrell, for which Harvard granted semi-finalist status as listed on the Harvard website.
The submission was centered around the City’s Power Center Infrastructure and Economic Development Program. The Power Center Program captures development driven new tax revenue in a one-of-a-kind manner. The City of Terrell has created unique public/private partnerships that deliver infrastructure needed for economic development without forcing taxpayers to assume the risks typically associated with a proactive development model.
Terrell is situated in Kaufman County, the 4th fastest growing county in Texas. In response to new residential and employment growth, the City of Terrell and Kaufman County established the largest rural Tax Increment Financing Reinvestment Zone (TIF) in Texas. The TIF provides a financial vehicle for building much needed public improvements and generates revenue based on net incremental gains over the hundreds of land owners within the TIF.
Additionally, in 2013, the City created an innovative structure unique to the nation – the Power Center. The Power Center is an interlocal agreement between the City of Terrell and Kaufman County that assigns the net value increment from individual properties, of which the net value would have been assigned to the TIF, to be issued to the Power Center Fund to allow developers to be repaid from 100% of the City and County incremental property tax increase of the property.
The first development agreement was finalized in December, 2013, and all occurred because of the Power Center innovation. The results of the Economic Development Program are evident in the current construction along I-20 in Terrell, which includes a new family destination center for shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.
Terrell Mayor Hal Richards commented, “Over the last few years, the City of Terrell has been recognized by Yale, Harvard, Old Dominion University, Texas Department of Transportation, North Central Texas Council of Governments, the Office of the Governor, Entrepreneur Magazine, and others for our innovative partnership programs and excellence in government.”