Enterprise Zone won't change if approved

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El Paso County’s Enterprise Zone will change very little if its application is approved some time in February.

Frank Barber, zone administrator, said the reapplication, which was filed in September, included the 34-year-old, 150,000-square-foot Chidlaw Building on East Bijou. The November reapplication for charitable contributions added recognition of the donated equipment related to the north campus of Pikes Peak Community College and the Integrated Circuit Fab Institute.

In El Paso County, the zone is used specifically to broaden the economic base, which is still 50% dependent on military spending; fight poverty; and reduce the effects of the region’s cyclic economy.

The application identified three “significant threats” to the area’s economy: global competition, lack of public policy, and lagging infrastructure improvements. Colorado Springs has seen the direct effect of global competition when Quantum Corp. moved 1,200 jobs to Malaysia last year. The application cited Enterprise Zones as the “defacto policy available to communities to achieve economic diversification and prevent future distress.” The lack of funding to support growth has caused traffic congestion that makes the region less attractive.

The current zone covers three main areas: the Interstate-25 corridor, the area surrounding the airport, and the eastern rural portions of the county. The zones were set up 10 years ago to offer tax incentives to employers creating jobs within the zones. Approximately 38,000 people live in the zones. Private sector primary employers located in the zones account for 85% of private sector employment in El Paso County.

Between 1991 and 1995, 1,300 to 1,400 Enterprise Zone qualified capital investment credits totalling $377 million have been made. More than 5,000 primary jobs have been created.

The rewrite of the Enterprise Zone law allowed for credits to be taken by businesses that located to a specific place because of a zone but the zone was then eliminated. The businesses can make a special application to the zone administrator before July 1 and credits can be taken through the year 2000.

The law also called for a study of all economic development tools used throughout the state. BBC Research and Consulting is conducting the study. Its final report will be finished by the beginning of February.

“Clearly, Enterprise Zones are perceived to be important for a variety of reasons,” said Doug Jeavons, one of BBC’s researchers.

Enterprise Zones currently cover 70% of Colorado’s land area. They came under fire last year for giving tax incentives to employers and developers that would have located to a specific high-growth area anyway.