Harris County Commissioners Court today approved the Department of Economic Equity and Opportunity’s guidelines and criteria for granting tax abatements in reinvestment zones to increase and strengthen existing community benefits and worker protections.
The policy, which takes effect immediately, builds on the changes made in 2020 to ensure competitive wages, access to affordable and quality health care, safety training, and the encouragement of Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) participation. The changes include a clean energy provision that will align with Harris County's climate action priorities and foster innovations in renewable energy.
Commissioner Ellis, who led the creation of the Department of Economic Equity and Opportunity and advocated for community benefits in 2020, said the updates are significant for the region’s future.
"We have a responsibility to promote equitable economic growth and shared prosperity. When companies get a break, our communities should benefit, too.”,” Commissioner Ellis said. “Additionally, our updated guidelines will incentivize businesses to reduce carbon emissions, develop new technologies to address the climate crisis, and help our region become a leader in sustainability.”
He said the updates also will create job opportunities by ensuring that at least 50% of new employees at the project location are Harris County residents. All fulltime employees must be paid a fair wage and offered affordable health care plans. In addition, incentivized projects must include a Fair Chance Hiring plan to provide job opportunities for people with a state criminal history.
The policy also emphasizes the importance of safe work environments by ensuring that contractors with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigations or violations will not be allowed on incentivized projects. The policy also prohibits contractors with outstanding wage theft claims or a recent history of wage theft.
“We must incentivize safe jobs,” Commissioner Ellis said. “Texas is the deadliest state for construction workers, which is why we’ve mandated multilingual OSHA-10 and OSHA-30 safety training in the language that is best for construction workers and their supervisors to ensure safe work environments.”