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Getting Press

The Desert Sun has an interview with Coachella Valley Enterprise Zone manager, Hal Joseph examining the benefits of the zone:

Away from the old Hollywood homes, beyond the exclusive country clubs, past the tribal casinos and amid the wide swaths of green where farmworkers toil, Hal Joseph sees opportunity.

As executive director of the Coachella Valley Enterprise Zone, he is responsible for attracting businesses to operate in job-thirsty regions of the desert.

The 50-square-mile zone dips into the cities of Indio and Coachella and extends into unincorporated areas of Riverside County. It’s likely to expand to 60 square miles by the end of the year.

Businesses within its boundaries are eligible for state income tax incentives — from breaks on hiring employees to equipment they need anyway.

“I think the future’s very bright for the enterprise zone here in the Coachella Valley,” Joseph said. “We’re starting to attract some businesses from all over the world that are at least taking a look at it here.”

He shared how he markets the region and what opportunities carry the greatest potential for the Coachella Valley.

Question: How does an enterprise zone work, and what are the benefits of being located in one?

Answer: The enterprise zone was established by the state Legislature in 1984. The state determined there were what they call pockets of poverty, and they wanted to help these areas out. They felt the best way to do that was by job creation.

You put people to work. You take them off welfare. You make taxpayers of them. You make homeowners of them.

We’re putting a lot of people to work through the incentives of the enterprise zone for businesses.

The major incentive is the hiring credit. But the incentives are so simple to use and so rewarding that the business owner will probably never have to pay California state income tax on their business.

Over the last four or five years, we’ve put over 12,000 people to work. It’s a multimillion-dollar operation.

How so?

Take Coachella. They are an absolute poster boy for what the enterprise zone can do for you.

High unemployment rate in Coachella, enormous. No big business at all. Tremendous amount of open space, underutilized properties. High crime rate.

Here’s what it’s done for Coachella: Over the last four years, we’ve written 1,490 vouchers, hiring credits for workers here. Businesses there have retained in their pockets over $17 million that they would normally pay in taxes.

So now what do they do? They can take that money and go out and hire more people, put more people to work and have their businesses grow.

But with the state budget in such a precarious situation, isn’t there some pressure to stop tax incentives like these?

In spite of all the trauma of the state budget, there’s not been any movement at all to eliminate the enterprise zone program.

Gee whiz, we could send all of that money to the black hole, which is called the state of California, and it will disappear on you. And then we won’t have all of these incentives for these workers and their families and all these distressed communities around the state.

But it’s not going to happen.

Why not?

The state Legislature has to have some common sense that if they don’t have at least this program, they will lose hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses to adjoining states — not only Nevada but Arizona, Idaho, Oregon. They have to have this kind of a program in order to balance out the fact that we’ve got to give businesses something here in order to keep them here.

How are things going right now in attracting businesses? Are there many out there interested in moving or creating jobs out here in this economy?

Yeah, there really are. We’ve got people from Austin, Texas, looking at us now to develop a green campus out there.

I really believe that the future of the economy in this valley is going to be in sustainable energy. We have 350 days a year of sunshine. The people from Austin, Texas, why would they come here? They’ve fallen in love with the place.

Texas does not have the incentive program we have here. Secondly, we have railroads. We have interstates, a regional airport and an international airport. We’re starting to develop world-class education systems here. These things capture people’s attention.

I will never go to another city in the Coachella Valley and encourage their business to leave and come to our zone. I will never do that. I find it almost as difficult to go to businesses in other cities in the state of California.

But I’m aggressive in reaching out to businesses anywhere in the world, anywhere in the United States to tell them how great it is to do business here. That’s my game plan.

So that’s to say your group did not approach Coca-Cola Bottling Co. when it decided to move its distribution center from Cathedral City to Coachella last year?

Coca-Cola came to me. They said, “Look, we’re in Cathedral City right now. We’re going to have to move because we’re running out of space.”

We had meetings over in Indio. We had meetings over in Coachella. That’s how that happened. We never marketed to them or knocked on their doors.

What are businesses required to do or to provide in order to get these tax credits?

Requirement No. 1 is that they have to have a business address in the zone. Not a P.O. box, but a physical location in the zone. That’s the big one.

The second one is that we have to qualify the workers. There are a series of questions that really identify the fact that these workers could really use this job. The other way to do it is by where you live and if it’s in a targeted employment area.

What do you like best about your job? What keeps you motivated?

Considering I came out of retirement?

I’m very altruistic. I believe in putting people to work.

Antioch College (in Yellow Springs, Ohio) was the single most important (decision) in my life that ever directed my future. …

Horace Mann, the father of American education, was the first president of Antioch College. He gave the commencement speech to the first graduating class.

In his speech, he carried the line: “Be ashamed to die until you’ve won some victory for humanity.”

I believe in that, and I want to help the people as much as I can. That’s what I’m here for.

Hal has always been on the vanguard of marketing his zone, but this may be the most creative publicity stunt yet.  Again from The Desert Sun:

Official’s car used in robbery: Enterprise zone director’s SUV stolen, abandoned

An Indian Wells man, who is the head of a local economic development program, says his stolen Subaru Forester was the getaway vehicle used in Thursday’s Miramonte Resort & Spa robbery.

As a result, Hal Joseph said, he has learned about security and public safety.

“I was taught a lesson; even though you think you’re safe, lock your car if you’re going to keep it outside,” he said.

Joseph is executive director of the Coachella Valley Enterprise Zone, a 50-square-mile area encompassing Thousand Palms, Indio, Coachella, Thermal and Mecca.

Tax incentives are offered to companies that establish within its limits.

He said he realized Friday that his car had been used in a crime when he read in The Desert Sun that the suspect vehicle — a white sport utility vehicle — was located shortly after the robbery, in the same area where investigators found his Subaru Thursday.

“Oh wow, it’s my car: the white SUV,” he said. “I let out a loud yell and called my wife over to read (the article).”

He noticed his vehicle was missing Wednesday morning when he stepped outside his Indian Wells Country Club home to get his newspapers.

“Here I am in my bathrobe and slippers, wondering, ‘My God, where’s my car?’” he said.

After recovering the Subaru Thursday, investigators told Joseph it was used in an unspecified crime.

It was slightly earlier that Riverside County sheriff’s deputies were called to the hotel robbery, which shocked the community.

“We haven’t had any robberies at the Miramonte in the last few years,” Riverside County sheriff’s Sgt. Herman Lopez said Friday.

At about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, an armed man entered the resort’s accounting office near the front of the hotel in the 45-000 block of Indian Wells Lane.

Police reported that the man fled, after robbing employees, in a white SUV and abandoned it at Elkhorn Trail and Arapahoe Vista — the same location, Joseph said, where authorities recovered his vehicle.

Lopez would not confirm if Joseph’s vehicle was used in the robbery as an investigation is ongoing.

The Subaru was in good condition, Joseph said, but every piece of loose property inside, including a pair of glasses, maps and a cooler, were gone.

It did not appear the Subaru was driven much, and there was still fuel in the tank.

Joseph had planned this weekend to get a car wash, change his Subaru’s locks and “buy another cooler,” he said.

Joseph concedes he left his doors unlocked, and he believes the thief used a valet key to start the engine.

Miramonte General Manager Stan Kantowski would not comment on any precautions the hotel is taking to prevent future robberies.

“We always look for ways to ensure proper security, but we are not revealing what else we are doing,” he said.

Authorities have yet to make an arrest in the case.

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