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Representatives From Inland Empire Enterprise Zones Will be in Capitol Next Week

From the San Bernardino Sun:

A group representing the San Bernardino Valley Enterprise Zone and businesses within its territory announced plans to travel to Sacramento and lobby to keep the zone alive.

Enterprise zones, intended to promote hiring and investment through an array of tax incentives, are on the chopping block while state officials deal with another year of multibillion-dollar deficits.

Enterprise zone supporters say the program is critical during a time of high unemployment, whereas others say the zones have never been proven to stimulate hiring and that money given as tax incentives could be better spent on public services.

San Bernardino Valley Enterprise Zone manager Wendy Clements, along with San Bernardino Economic Development Agency officials Colin Strange and Lori Panzino-Tillery are set to take part in the mission.

Representatives of area businesses including Remediation Earth, Brickley Environmental and Vanir Development are also scheduled to participate.

Remediation Earth’s chief operating officer, Peter Kokiousis, said the company is intent upon expanding into San Bernardino and ultimately hiring roughly 110 employees, but those plans have been significantly shaped by the expectation of tax breaks available through the enterprise zone program.

No enterprise zone may mean that Remediation Earth managers abandon their San Bernardino plans, Kokiousis said.

“I can’t tell you that for certain, but I can tell you we’re looking at other areas,” he said during a Thursday morning media conference to announce to discuss the lobbying trip.

Remediation Earth is a Westlake Village-based firm founded to convert waste products into fuels.

Kokiousis and others involved in the lobbying trip will try to convince legislators to reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate California’s 42 enterprise zones.

The Brown administration projects killing enterprise zones will save $343 million in 2010-11 and $581 million during the next fiscal year.

The state faces a projected $26.6 billion deficit through June 2012.

The San Bernardino group supporting enterprise zones plan to meet with legislators on Monday and Tuesday.

The San Bernardino Valley Enterprise Zone’s territory encompasses land in San Bernardino, Colton and unincorporated areas in Bloomington and near Fontana.

Enterprise zones offer tax incentives for hiring certain workers, such as ex-offenders, welfare recipients and veterans. Businesses can also receive tax credits for machinery purchases and certain other business experience.

Business administrators within the San Bernardino zone’s territory filed 2,276 vouchers for new or retained employees in 2010.

That number included 98 workers who had previously received public assistance and 66 ex-offenders.

On the other side of the debate, the California Budget Project supports the governor’s proposal to eliminate enterprise zones.

The California Budget Project is officially nonpartisan, although its board of directors includes leaders of public agencies and groups representing state employees, such as Service Employees International Union.

Sacrificing the enterprise zone program would help the state avoid deeper cuts to education and other public services, CBP deputy director Alissa Anderson said.

“If we cut school spending, for example, then we’re looking at more teacher layoffs,” Anderson said.

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