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Enterprise Zone has been engine for growth

December 4, 2018

MORRISON – In small towns with a limited arsenal of business incentives, enterprise zones are cornerstones of the regional economy.

Looking at the Whiteside/Carroll Enterprise Zone, a few key numbers tell a compelling story. Since 2000, the Enterprise Zone has been been involved in 469 business projects that have infused $414,630,240 in investments throughout the region. The money invested has helped to create or retain 8,076 jobs.

The Whiteside County Economic Development department wants to help businesses understand what the incentives can do for them, whether it’s a new venture or an expansion.

“The Whiteside/Carroll Enterprise Zone has shown itself to be one of the region’s most effective local incentives in attracting investment, and retaining and creating jobs in the region,” Gary Camarano, Whiteside County economic development director, said in a news release.

In an effort to maximize the potential of the Enterprise Zone, Camarano and Sandy Prescott, the department’s administrative assistant, will lead informational meetings in both counties this month. In Whiteside County, the meeting will be held Dec. 18 in Morrison, and in Carroll County, the session will be held Dec. 19 in Mount Carroll.

The meetings will include information on Enterprise Zone benefits, eligibility, and how to navigate the application process. The department says there are some misconceptions about who can qualify for assistance.

“The Enterprise Zone has helped businesses large and small, local or headquartered outside the region, and it has been involved in industrial, commercial or retail ventures,” Camarano said.

The incentives have been used by some of the area’s largest employers, including Wahl Clipper and the Walmart Distribution Center, but small downtown retailers also have reaped the benefits. 

The 2006 Walmart project has directly created 740 jobs and an additional 240 at other employers. That kind of impact has had a ripple effect throughout a large area.

“The Enterprise Zone has had a significant effect on the economy of not only the municipality where a project occurs, but on the whole region,” Sterling Mayor Skip Lee said. “A job created by a project in Sterling, Rock Falls or Savanna is a job opportunity for anyone in our region.”

The 2014 $8.5 million expansion project at Wahl Clipper was fueled by an incentive package estimated to be worth $1.6 million over a decade. The key component was a tax credit from Illinois’ Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) program, but the project also received a sales tax exemption on materials through the Enterprise Zone.

The Whiteside/Carroll Enterprise Zone’s designation was to expire last December, but its application was approved by the state in September 2017. The villages of Tampico and Milledgeville have been added to the new enterprise zone. 

The designation is good for 15 years, and in year 13, applications are due for a 10-year extension.

The process has been extremely competitive because the 30-year life spans on many of the the state’s oldest enterprise zones were supposed to expire in 2014. The state, however, backed up the expiration dates by 2 years, and those applications converged with 17 more zones that were already set to expire in 2017 and 2018.

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