Thursday, September 19, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Last month, state officials announced that the Illinois Enterprise Zone Board approved 14 proposals for renewed or newly established enterprise zones across the state — including one in Proviso Township that will encompass Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park.
The West Regional Enterprise Zone is an expansion of the Maywood Enterprise Zone, which was created back in 1988 in order to bring new businesses into the village. That zone — the only one in Proviso Township at the time — was renewed in 2008, before its lifespan expired and it was renewed again in 2018.
Enterprise zones are designed to spur economic investment in historically disinvested communities by offering a variety of tax breaks to businesses seeking to move or expand their operations within those zones. The businesses typically have to certify a certain amount of new investment and a certain number of new jobs in order to get the tax breaks.
Under former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration, state officials told municipalities with enterprise zones that in order to renew, they would have to team up with other municipalities to create zones that are much larger geographically.
“The state has committed to collaboration and moving forward, there will be very, very few [single municipality] zones,” Angela Smith, Maywood’s business coordinator, said during a board meeting in February 2018.
“The zone has to be continuous for 15 square miles, so we came together because they are our neighboring communities,” Smith said at the time. “Melrose Park is the largest industrial [area] on the north [boundary of the proposed zone] and Broadview is the largest industrial on the south boundary, so we came together in order to really promote that industrial [factor] and actually have more of an impact on the region.”
The boundaries of the proposed West Cook Regional Enterprise Zone, which the state approved in August. | Village of Maywood
Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park each contributed funds to hire a consultant — Warren Ribley, the former executive director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and president of WCR Enterprises — to facilitate the application process.
The newly expanded zone will entail the creation of a five-person startup committee, with one designated representative from each government, Maywood officials said last year. The zone’s administrative costs will be funded over the long-term, in part, by a small fee imposed on enterprise zone-certified projects.
In a statement released Aug. 27, the Illinois Enterprise Zone Board explained that once an enterprise zone is designated, that area may remain a zone for 15 years, “with a review by the Enterprise Zone Board after thirteen years for a possible ten year extension of the zone designation.”
Erin Guthrie, the acting director of DCEO, which regulates the creation of new enterprise zones and handles renewal applications, said that the zones are beneficial to residents.
“Enterprise Zones offer economically-depressed communities the opportunity to attract corporate investment and create much-needed earning opportunities for residents,” Guthrie said. “With the addition of these new enterprise zones, fourteen more communities have access to economic development opportunities.”
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