When you are actively seeking a government bid, it is wise to get your ducks in order. Of course, it also helps when you co-write the legislation.
Lancaster city officials did both. For months, the Gray administration has been preparing for the possibility that the city would be the recipient of the new City Revitalization and Improvement Zones funding.
Monday, Gov. Tom Corbett made it official by designating Lancaster and Bethlehem as the first two cities in the state for the model CRIZ program.
The plan could generate as much as $210 million in downtown growth and development in the first phase alone.
And, it will not raise taxes. Here's how it works: The CRIZ allows cities to use a host of state taxes - corporate, sales, personal and earned income, amusement and liquor - to pay off bonds that are issued to cover development.
It does not exempt businesses that move into those zones from paying property taxes to the school district or the municipality.
If a developer brings a Pennsylvania company into a CRIZ, it can only use the additional taxes the business generates after the move, and the amount above what the company was paying the state at its old location.
If an out-of-state business moves into a CRIZ, developers can use tenants' state and city taxes to cover construction costs.
The projects are expected to generate as much in revenue as the annual debt payments on their funding bonds.
The CRIZ was Mayor Rick Gray's idea. A year ago, city officials and members of state Sen. Lloyd Smucker's staff began modeling the proposal after Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone program.
In July, Smucker's legislation was approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Tom Corbett.
Eight projects are proposed in the initial phase including renovations to Lancaster Square (that includes The Hotel Lancaster and the Bulova Building) the Keppel Building and air development rights above the RRTA garage, all on North Queen Street; Conestoga Plaza and the Lancaster County Convention Center on South Queen Street and funding for an aquatic center on New Holland Avenue.
Eight cities vied for the funding, including Reading. But Lancaster and Bethlehem were chosen because their projects are shovel-ready and because they had created authorities to oversee the projects.
In Bethlehem, the CRIZ will enable the city to move quickly on 11 projects, including the $175 million redevelopment of Martin Tower and the transformation of the former Bethlehem Steel No.2 Machine Shop into a Bass Pro Shops.
Lancaster has been undergoing a renaissance. Last year, Site Selection magazine, which reports on corporate real estate issues, ranked Lancaster as the fifth-best metro area in the Northeast and fifth nationally among areas with populations between 200,000 and 1 million.
The CRIZ will enhance the city's reputation as an art center, a tourist center and as the fourth most-exciting small city in America.