Oregon's enterprise zone program allows cities to offer property tax relief for up to five years to businesses that bring new facilities, equipment and employment to the zone.
Land and existing property don't qualify for the abatement. In return for the tax breaks, the program requires companies to increase full-time, permanent employment by either one new job or 10 percent, whichever is greater. It's one of the economic development initiatives Hillsboro has used to become, to use two of city leaders' favorite phrases, the "tallest tree in the Silicon Forest" and the "economic engine" of the state.
If not for the enterprise zone, the city might not boast nationally recognized companies like SolarWorld, Genentech, Adobe and Reser's Fine Foods - and the jobs those businesses create.
When Hillsboro applied for an enterprise zone in , city officials listed 13 companies in the northern industrial area that had closed and put their facilities up for sale. Five more businesses had downsized. The enterprise zone program, they said, would attract new companies, which would invest in new facilities and reuse old ones.
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The plan worked. That part of the zone is still exploding with development. Reser's Fine Foods is now finishing up a massive new facility that will be home to jobs.
Some companies have created more jobs than others. Over the past few years, out-of-state data centers have flocked to the city to take advantage of the enterprise zone. Their facilities require huge business investment and large tax breaks, but some data centers only create a few jobs.
The data centers are also enjoying tax credits on their state corporate income or excise tax returns. Qualifying for the program. In order to get an enterprise zone, Hillsboro had to meet a certain standard of "economic need and hardship. But a zone could be located in different sections of the city and didn't have to be contiguous. Hillsboro's zone is actually two zones : the vast industrial-ready land in the north, and a relatively small, poor section in the city's southwest corner.
Mokler doubted that the northern industrial area where Genentech planned to build a factory was economically disadvantaged and said the property would surely develop with or without an enterprise zone.
Urban enterprise zone - Wikipedia
Officials said at the time that the zone would attract jobs for struggling families in the city's poorest areas. And they pledged to use fees associated with the zone to assist people in those sections of the city - a practice that continues today. The fees also fund workforce-training programs like English language development.
But of the 15 companies that used the zone in , only EG Metals is actually located in the southwest zone. EG Metals has 23 full-time, permanent workers, 10 of them hired because of the zone, according to state data.
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Though per-capita income measures in most of the census tracts associated with the citywide zone have gone up - some slightly, some significantly - three of the tracts in and near the southwest zone have suffered falling incomes and rising unemployment rates. It's hard to compare current data to the income data the city originally used because the United States Census Bureau re-drew census tracts and their subgroups, dubbed "block groups," for the census.
But using the bureau's legend for comparing block groups across decades, it's possible to draw some conclusions about some of the areas included in the southwest part of the enterprise zone. For example, two of the block groups in tract The block groups may not match up exactly due to the boundary adjustments, but it's the same general area. In tract