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Village Vision News

EDC rep calls on Forsyth to join new enterprise zone

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Larry Altenbaumer, interim president of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur/Macon County gave a presentation to the board of trustees at the Sept. 15 board meeting. Altenbaumer’s visit was prompted by the EDC’s goal of expanding the local enterprise zone.

Altenbaumer said that if Forsyth joined with other local municipalities — Decatur, Macon County and Mount Zion — that would allow the four municipal bodies together to increase the enterprise zone from the current 12 square miles to the maximum 15 square miles. Forsyth and Mount Zion would be newcomers, as Decatur and Macon County are already participants. The enterprise zone would concentrate on jobs coming from the “non-retail, non-residential component of the marketplace,” Altenbaumer said.

Altenbaumer defined the enterprise zone program as a partnership between state and local governments whereby “qualified new and existing businesses in the zone are offered state and local tax incentives and other benefits.” The program’s purpose is to enhance “economic competitiveness of proposed projects and increase the likelihood that such projects will be developed in a designated enterprise zone.”

Enterprise zones throughout the state are set to expire in July of 2016. The Decatur/Macon County enterprise zone has been in effect since 1983, Altenbaumer told trustees. Being a part of the enterprise zone is important, Altenbaumer said, for current and prospective opportunities, and for the “jobs we hope to create.”

Enterprise zone incentive options include: ½ percent investment tax credit, sales tax exemption on construction materials and property tax abatement, to name only a few.

Altenbaumer’s presentation included the following point: “more than $400 million of local capital investments and about 1,600 jobs have been supported by the enterprise zone over the past 10 years.”

He called it a promising time locally citing new owners of Mount Zion’s PPG plant, an expansion of Union Iron Works and new opportunities with the community’s and ADM’s development of the Midwest Inland Port.

Qualifying for the enterprise zone designation involves some negative criteria, or as Altenbaumer said: “Unfortunately, bad news helps you.” He then listed the 10 criteria (see accompanying info box).

Trustee Larry Reed asked how the enterprise zone would benefit Forsyth.

“Forsyth is a really compact community,” Reed said. “You’ve talked about the big picture, but how does this help Forsyth?”

“I think there are areas that could be developed,” Altenbaumer said. “Obviously, it’s a case by case basis,” adding that the hope is that an enterprise zone would help offer another reason for companies to come to the area.

Taxing districts, aside from the municipalities, that support the enterprise zone include: Decatur Park District, Richland Community College, Decatur Public School District 61 and the Argenta-Oreana School District. Other taxing districts targeted for participation include: Maroa-Forsyth and Mount Zion school districts.

Next up in the process, Altenbaumer said, is a public hearing on Oct. 6. The approval of the individual taxing bodies will come, he said, sometime between Oct. 20 and Nov. 17.

“We’d like to get some indication in the next couple of meetings if this is something you’d like to go forward with,” Altenbaumer said.

Applications must be filed by Dec. 31, 2014 with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The first round of new enterprise zones will become effective on Jan. 1 2016. Altenbaumer believes that the area will likely get approval.

“We have a high-level of confidence that we’ll be approved for one of the enterprise zones,” Altenbaumer said.

10 criteria for approval of an enterprise zone

1. Unemployment
2. Employment opportunities
3. Poverty
4. Abandoned coal mine, brownfield or federal disaster area
5. Large scale business closings
6. Vacant structures
7. Tax base improvement plan
8. Public infrastructure improvement plan
9. Career skills programs
10. Equalized assessed valuation

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