On Monday, February 27, Sen. Althoff and Sen. Michael Frerichs (D – Champaign) were named co-chairs of a newly created bipartisan Senate Special Committee on Enterprise Zone Extensions  that will travel the state to gather input on proposed legislation to modernize and extend the Enterprise Zone Program.

The Enterprise Zone Program, established in 1982, is one of the state’s most proven and successful economic development tools. Beginning next year, these zones will start to expire and businesses statewide will lose access to the various incentives they offer.

"I think we have a tremendous opportunity to fine tune this great economic development tool to make sure it remains useful and productive for years to come. As a former mayor, I am keenly aware of how vital enterprise zones can be in spurring economic development and creating jobs. At the same time, I am also sensitive to the need to balance tax incentives with worthwhile results. I look forward to hearing from others about their experiences and ultimately producing and passing a meaningful enterprise zone reform package," said Senator Althoff, who before joining the Senate was the mayor of McHenry, IL.

Frerichs stressed that the goal is to make sure this effective economic development program remains successful.  

“We know enterprise zones have been creating jobs across Illinois for 30 years,” said Senator Frerichs. “A program this proven and successful deserves this kind of comprehensive approach, rather than piecemeal renewals. I look forward to hearing from business and community officials throughout the state on how we can keep this great program going and improve it for the future.”

The committee’s first hearing will be held Thursday, March 15 at Southern Illinois University’s Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center in Carbondale. Three additional hearings are planned for Peoria, Rockford, and Chicago. Exact dates and times are yet to be determined.

The new Senate Special Committee was created Monday at the direction of Senate President John J. Cullerton. The six-member committee will have three members from each party to be chosen by President Cullerton and Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

Enterprise zones seek to stimulate economic growth by creating specified geographic regions that offer businesses within that zone state and local tax incentives and regulatory relief. In 2011 alone, the program is credited with creating 8,980 jobs and nearly $2.5 billion in investments.

"Enterprise zones are a crucial economic development tool in Illinois that have a real record of success.  Nearly $50 billion in capital investment and more than 900,000 jobs have been created or retained since their inception," said Greg Baise, president & CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, the oldest and largest manufacturing trade association in the country. "We applaud the bipartisan effort to provide long-term stability and foresight to economic development in Illinois."

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is working with lawmakers to produce a comprehensive modernization and extension package regarding enterprise zones. That legislation (SB 3688) includes the following reforms:

·        Renews current enterprise zones for an additional 25 years, subject to approval of state and local officials

·        Allows up to 10 additional zones to be created over the next 10 years

·        Streamlines the available tax incentives to remove those that are not producing results

·        Requires maps of enterprise zones to be posted online

"Illinois enterprise zones have proven themselves to be a vital business retention and attraction tool.  They are utilized by employers of all sizes and have added a measure of predictability for Illinois job creators and economic development professionals as we all compete for jobs and investment", said Craig Coil, President of the Illinois Enterprise Zone Association.  "Long term extension of enterprise zones is critical to the success of our economic development efforts in Illinois and I'm pleased that the Senate is focusing its attention on this important issue.”

The goal of the hearings is to gather input from local business and community leaders and enterprise zone officials. Legislators aim to pass a comprehensive enterprise zone package this spring.

 

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