MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) More historic buildings in Mobile and the state of Alabama could be getting makeovers if a bill becomes law in Montgomery. House Bill 140 would give tax breaks to those who invest in such properties.
For Mobile, that could be another bonus for an already improving economy.
Scaffolding is coming down as construction workers finish restoring a wall on a historic Dauphin Street property. Good news for downtown.
Contractor Burl Barnett says get used to it.
"Just all of a sudden the work just started from everywhere," he said, "from every direction."
After the recession nearly shut down his construction company, the tide has changed. Burl said he's seen it, not just in his company, but among others as well. There are new jobs and new employees.
"Well, we used to have about 35 before the economy went bad," he said, "and we were down to three but now we're back to eight."
Is it the economy?
The prospect of Airbus?
Or people tired of waiting to invest?
All of the above, he believes.
Now, along with this new optimism and resurgence of development, there comes, perhaps, another tool in the tool box to work with. It's in the form of a new bill that could become law, and it has everything to do with history.
House Bill 140, sponsored by representative Victor Gaston of Mobile, is working its way though the legislature right now.
Simply put, if you restore an historic home or business property, you could get a 25 percent credit on your state income taxes.
There are specific requirements: it can't be used for heating and A/C, or plumbing, and you have to follow historic guidelines. But it could be that financial jump start needed for some homeowners, especially business owners, said Devereaux Bemis of the Mobile Historic Developement Commission.
"I think it's going to be mainly big developers," he said, "people who can stack state credits with federal credits. And the reason this is so important is because most of the states around us do this. Louisiana has been doing this for a decade. And while everyone else in the area has seen their building economy plummet, there's has gone up."
Carol Hunter of the Downtown Alliance said some may worry about that 25 percent loss of revenue to the state. But she said that would be quickly erased by other economic benefits.
"If you can get property occupied," she said, "generating jobs, business licenses, increased property tax revenue, then that is positive to the state."
Hunter believes the bill has a good chance of passing during this legislative session.