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San Bernardino EZ Makes Pitch in Capitol

Representatives from the San Bernardino Enterprise Zone were in Sacramento on Wednesday to speak to legislators. Here is the report The Sun:

As state lawmakers stare down a $20 billion budget deficit, local leaders are worried cuts might be made to a program they say has created or saved much-needed jobs in and around San Bernardino.

Wendy Clement, manager of the San Bernardino Valley Enterprise Zone, and local business owners traveled to Sacramento on Wednesday to ask lawmakers to continue funding the enterprise zone program, which gives tax breaks to businesses that relocate to or create jobs in a specific area.

“A lot of (lawmakers) don’t understand what the program is about,” Clement said. “They have misconceptions Since it’s a tax expenditure program, it’s always been looked at as a place where (lawmakers) can make cuts from.”

Clement said she and representatives from other local agencies and businesses would meet with state Sens. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair, as well as Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto.

The enterprise zone, one of 42 in the state, encompasses much of San Bernardino and Colton and some unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County. In the past six months, Clement said businesses in the zone have created 1,035 new jobs.

“We have had a couple newer companies moving into the area,” Clement said. “And a couple more are doing some good expansions, which is good in these times.”

Enterprise zones, usually found in blighted or poverty-stricken areas, attract new businesses and encourage old ones to stay by offering generous tax breaks. Clement said the most lucrative break is the hiring tax credit, worth $37,500 over five years for every qualifying employee hired.

Craig Johnson, president of the California Association of Enterprise Zones, said some lawmakers and state officials have proposed scaling back the enterprise zone program and its tax breaks, with the aim of bringing in money to balance the state’s books.

“They’re all scrambling for dollars,” Johnson said. “A lot of folks look at the tax credits that are taken and they believe that by abolishing the program, those credits will translate into more dollars in the treasury.”

But that’s not true, Johnson said. Without the program and its tax breaks, some businesses would leave California and others would go out of business, he said.

Aaron Baker, president of Cannon Safe Inc., said the enterprise zone’s tax breaks have helped his company stay in San Bernardino despite state taxes and regulations that he said make doing business in Nevada or Arizona more attractive.

“We have been wined and dined by other states,” Baker said. “Other states have offered to pay wages or build buildings for us.”

He said the enterprise zone “helps us swallow the burden of staying in California.”

Clement said that’s exactly what the zone aims to do. She called it the “only economic tool the state offers” to keep businesses in the area.

“It’s very expensive to do business in California,” she said. “These tax credits and reductions help a company when it comes to being able to operate here.”

Carter said she was impressed by the group’s presentation Wednesday and believes that, while some enterprise zones are not doing well, the state should keep the San Bernardino zone.

“This particular one, I’m really impressed with it,” Carter said. “I’ve looked at places where other enterprise programs are not operated in a fashion that would be beneficial to the area.”

This is the second consecutive year enterprise zone representatives have travelled to Sacramento to ask lawmakers to continue the program.

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