Volition Gets A Tax Dollar Boost From Champaign

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Steve Anderson
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Volition Gets A Tax Dollar Boost From Champaign

Not so long ago, we had a look at how tax dollars were impacting gaming as we knew it with a Tax Day look at how Georgia was offering up some incentives to provide tax breaks for various gaming companies in the field. We even had Tripwire Interactive Vice President Alan Wilson drop in to lend a little extra perspective on the move as well, which was terrific. But now, it seems that the move is going on outside of Georgia as well, as the city of Champaign discovered it wanted Saints Row IV developer Volition to stick around, and was willing to put its money where its mouth was, so to speak.

Ever since the success of Saints Row IV, the company was looking to make some expansion efforts. Word emerged that the company was eager to do some remodeling, expand its operations, and make some new hires, including 100 new developers. Volition reportedly turned to the city of Champaign in Illinois, asking for $200,000 for construction, and an additional $1,000 for every new employee hired. Champaign didn't quite give in at last report, instead offering Volition $150,000 for renovations, and an extra $1,000 per employee hired up to a combined total of $200,000. This was a measure that seemed to work for Volition, with the company noting that, should the cash not come through, it would have to look for a new location in which to operate, taking a chunk of the Champaign tax base—as well as a chunk of the Champaign downtown—with it. Given that Volition had 212 people on staff at the end of 2013 with an average salary of $81,000 per, that means quite a chunk of cash.

Some here might believe that this was a bad move for Champaign, but oddly, there wasn't much complaint from the city itself. There were some reportedly expressing concern over the loss of Volition, and the owner of a restaurant in One Main—the same building Volition is in—noted that “They (Volition) have literally a daily effect on my business.” The Champaign newspaper, the News-Gazette, reportedly referred to such deals as a “...fact of life...”, nothing that those who complain about same were engaged in “...almost a pointless endeavor.”

Which in many ways is quite true. After all, cities need businesses to stick around, otherwise no one in town is employed in the town. That can do bad things to the property taxes, as well as to local non-property tax income as well. It's easy to see, as a city, that spending $200,000 today might generated 10 to 100 times that in just a few years, and these days, that kind of investment is hard to find. So it makes sense that Champaign would shell out that kind of money; keeping business around by offering incentives isn't a bad idea. While it might have been preferable to offer waivers on property taxes or the like rather than just forking over a check, making it at least somewhat contingent on job growth was a good idea.

Government roles in our lives should commonly be limited, but when it comes to things like this, making more welcoming climates for business isn't a bad idea at all. It keeps people employed, and it keeps people spending, two things we need more of these days.