Champaign study session discusses enterprise zone application

By Angelica Lavito

Champaign is working to apply for a new enterprise zone that would stimulate economic growth, as the current zone is set to expire at the end of 2016.

Champaign’s zone contains primarily industrial, commercial and lower income neighborhoods. Property tax abatements and sales tax exemptions are available for projects of expansion within enterprise zones.

Representatives from Champaign, Champaign County and the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation presented background information on the application and their work on it thus far at Tuesday’s study session.

“There are quite a few startups where this program took their small business to a fairly large business in [Research Park],” said Erik Kotewa, Deputy Director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation. 

Certain projects are eligible to receive property tax subsidies and sales tax incentives within the enterprise zone, these include: commercial, industrial, rehabilitation and new single family residential projects.

The zone could encompass 12 miles. Applying for a new zone this year gives the city and county the opportunity to redraw the boundaries based on the area’s changing needs in order to customize the programs offered.

“We can be flexible in the amounts we abate; we can be flexible in the term of the abatement,” said TJ Blakeman, a Champaign city planner. “As I mentioned before, we can create subzones to target these dollars, and it gives us the opportunity to focus on industrial, commercial, residential districts in neighborhoods throughout the city.”

All zones statewide will begin to expire in 2015, and Champaign’s current zone will expire in 2016. The combination of current zones and new areas applying will make for a competitive application process, according to the study session report. 

Champaign, Champaign County and the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation are working to partner with Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Champaign Park District, Parkland College and Unit 4 Schools for the enterprise zone. Kotewa said that partnering with local agencies will help make their application more competitive. 

“The long-term outlook is we could have a robust local economy if we sacrifice a little bit more in the short term and incentivize the investment that will help us in the long run,” said Tom Bruno, at-large city council member.

Tuesday’s study session aimed to brief City Council on the enterprise zone application process. Another study session will be scheduled once more details of the application are finalized.

The application is due on Dec. 31, and the governor’s panel will make a final decision in 2015.

Angelica can be reached at [email protected]