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New and expanding South County businesses will soon get tax breaks

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image Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman. Mitch Traphagen File Photo

The Enterprise Zone will provide much-needed incentives to business owners in the designated areas.

Businesses in three areas of South County will find themselves in a better tax position by the end of this month.

County Commissioners voted in December to ask the State of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity Office to add portions of Gibsonton, Riverview and Palm River to the list of State Enterprise Zones, and the State has already told the county to expect approval by the end of the month.

This means that new or expanding businesses in those areas will be eligible for State tax credits in hopes of boosting the local economies.

The areas were chosen because they meet the state’s “misery index” statistics, with poverty rates of more than 20 percent, and have more than 30 percent of the employees from those businesses living within that area as well. To be considered, the area must also have an unemployment rate of more than 8.9 percent and be in what the state calls “general distress.”

General distress, according to Lynn Schultz, business consultant for the county’s Economic Development Department, means that the area includes problems like poor drainage, high crime, abandoned buildings, and deteriorated roads.

At this time, Hillsborough County has only 3.1 miles of Enterprise Zones, which were created to increase business, which then improves the economy within the depressed areas. This figure does not include the City of Tampa, which is counted separately.

Once approved by the State, Hillsborough County will have 15.6 square miles where new — and expanding businesses — get tax credits on a State level.

“The State has already told us to expect the letter of approval by the end of January,” Schultz said.

The City of Tampa has 19 square miles of Enterprise Zone land, but that is not counted with the county, which according to State charts (even including Tampa) has the lowest number of square miles in Florida in these special zones.

Miami/Dade County currently tops the list with almost 52 square miles of Enterprise Zones.

Prior to the Commissioners’ vote in December, five public meetings were conducted in the potential zone areas to provide information on the expansion efforts as well as the benefits to their communities.

“Expanding the existing Enterprise Zone is a true benefit to our residents and business owners located within the designated areas,” Schultz said. “They will have the opportunity to utilize much-needed incentives to help in the growth of their businesses as well as employ residents located in these communities.”

Once in the zone, new and expanding businesses there will be eligible for a job tax credit of 20 percent on wages paid to workers who live in the zone and 30 percent if more than 20 percent of its employees live within the zone; building materials will be eligible for up to $5,000 in the form of a sales tax refund, or up to $10,000 if 20 percent if more of its employees live within the zone.

There will also be a business equipment sales tax refund as well as a property tax credit against the Florida corporate income tax. This credit will be equal to the property tax the new or expanding business pays the county up to $50,000 a year.

Commissioner Sandra Murman, who represents District IV, which includes South County, presented the original request to the Department of Economic Development to consider the addition of the areas to the Enterprise Zones.

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