Economic Development News
|Chances for Indiantown enterprise zone look good in Legislature|
|Published Thursday, April 7, 2011 10:26 pm|
For the past two years, local legislators and economic stakeholders pushed for a 10-mile radius of Indiantown to receive the designation that gives businesses certain tax breaks. Their efforts stopped short of full House and Senate votes.The Martin County delegation — Sen. Joe Negron and Reps. Steve Perman, William Snyder and Gayle Harrell — last week managed to bundle the Indiantown enterprise zone provision into two big economic development budget bills. House Bill 7203 and Senate Bill 2156 passed Thursday, making Indiantown's enterprise zone just about a governor's signature away from becoming a reality.
"It helps set up Indiantown to be competitive and in the mix with other parts of the region that have enterprise zones," Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith said. "They're trying everything they can to grow and expand, and this just adds another piece of that puzzle. We've been trying for the last couple years. Maybe this is our year."
Areas surrounding Indiantown in Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties already bear the enterprise zone distinction. Businesses in those regions qualify for credits on their corporate income taxes for 20 to 30 percent of wages paid to new employees. They also can receive certain tax refunds on equipment and supply purchases.
That puts Indiantown at an unfair disadvantage to go after new businesses, Harrell said.
"It's a matter of fairness to make sure Indiantown has a fair playing field," said Harrell, R-Port St. Lucie. "We want to make sure Indiantown has an opportunity to grow and to expand to become the community it needs to be."
In December, Florida Power and Light Co. opened its new Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Indiantown, which will pay more than $5 million in property taxes a year and generate enough electricity to power 11,000 homes for a year. Gov. Rick Scott made an appearance at the plant last month, touting the state's potential in the alternative energy industry.
With the enterprise zone designation — which would not include the FPL plant — officials agree alternative energy could be Indiantown's calling card.
"We're going to do everything we can for Indiantown. We're going to give (the enterprise zone) one last push," Negron, R-Stuart, said last month. "I think the governor being in Indiantown helps our cause."
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley also has gotten his name in the mix. Foley, who has been largely off the radar since his political career ended unceremoniously in 2006, has publicized his hope to help turn Indiantown into an "energy village" — a local economy driven by energy from natural resources.
"If we were to get private investors plus an enterprise zone, I think things could really start falling in place for Indiantown," said Crystal Stiles, co-director of the Business Development Board of Martin County.
As long as the enterprise zone item doesn't come up in budget conference committees, the governor just needs to sign off on it.
"At this point, things are looking very favorable," said Brian Powers, Indiantown representative of the Community Redevelopment Agency. "I mean, I know this is our third time and we've all heard this before, but we're farther than we've ever been in our three years of trying."
This year, officials think the finish line might finally be in sight.
"I'm feeling very confident this is our year," Martin County Commissioner Ed Ciampi said. "It's a great opportunity for everyone in Martin County, but especially the folks in Indiantown."Correspondent Jayme Sellards contributed to this report.
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