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Editorial: TaskUs plan a better deal than Council’s Topgolf

City and county leaders are frequently having to weigh the pros and cons of economic development packages for companies contemplating setting up shop here. While we all want more jobs in Albuquerque, these multi-million dollar packages need to be handed out wisely and with the best interests of taxpayers in mind, since they are the ones who ultimately foot the bill for the incentives.

The package proposed for customer support company TaskUs fits that bill. The company provides outsourced customer support and other services for companies like MailChimp and Tinder and wants to open an operation in Albuquerque in the first quarter of 2019.

Under the proposal, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company will receive $2 million from the state’s Local Economic Development Act fund, $1 million from the city’s closing fund and an industrial revenue bond package that functions as a property tax break.

In exchange for those incentives, TaskUs plans to open an office in Downtown Albuquerque – investing $9 million for about 50,500 square feet of office space located in the First Plaza Building at Third and Tijeras NW.

The company has also pledged to create 695 new jobs here, with about 90 percent of those permanent jobs going to New Mexicans. About 380 of those jobs will be for Tier 1 customer experience specialists, positions that come with a starting salary of $26,000. The company’s other positions are expected to pay between $34,000 and $51,000. The positions include incentives and benefits.

These are by no means high-paying jobs, but they are decent salaries for Albuquerque.

Mayor Tim Keller notes this deal makes much more sense for Albuquerque than the multi-million dollar incentive package the City Council approved for Topgolf over Keller’s objections. Topgolf is expected to have 123 full-time jobs with most salaries estimated at $8-$12 an hour.

“Call center jobs, whether they’re high paying or low paying, as long as they are jobs that a company from out of state is bringing here, are new jobs bringing in money from out of state. That’s different than Topgolf,” Keller said, pointing out that TaskUs will not be competing with any other call centers here.

In other words, the TaskUs deal will actually grow the local economy by pumping out-of-state money into it, whereas Topgolf will merely cannibalize recreation dollars already circulating in the local economy, dollars the mayor argues would otherwise go to such businesses as Cliff’s Amusement Park, Hinkle Family Fun Center and Cool Springz Trampoline Park.

Keller says the differences between these two deals are like “night and day.” He’s absolutely right.

Here’s hoping the City Council follows Keller’s lead and invests in bringing in companies that will actually grow the Albuquerque economy, rather than companies that are only going to eat into what’s already here.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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