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Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston Holds Press Conference in Support of Enterprise Zones

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Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston joined other area leaders today at a coating and finishing plant near Stockton Metropolitan Airport they say has benefited from the tax credits Gov. Jerry Brown wants to eliminate to balance the state budget.

The gathering at Premier Finishing was organized to protest the proposed end of the enterprise zones, which offers tax breaks up to $37,000 for new hires and other benefits, including credits for machinery purchases.

San Joaquin County’s enterprise zone has spanned more than 650 square miles since 2008 and, in that time, nearly 15,000 hiring vouchers have been requested, said Fran Aguilera, the county’s economic development director. In 2010, 3,112 new jobs were created in the county’s zone and 6,000 jobs were retained using the incentives, he said.

“This is an incentive that really helps us,” Johnston said. Eliminating the zones, she said, “is going to cripple our local economy.”

Thom Foulks is co-owner of Premier Partners, the commercial real estate arm of Premier Finishing that owns several buildings near the airport. Foulks said a solar power company from the Bay Area was recently interested in leasing one of his vacant 60,000-square-foot spaces.

But the business jetted to South Carolina when the state offered it a $115 million relocation incentive, Foulks said, and when news of Brown’s budget proposal to eliminate California’s tax breaks surfaced.

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office said in a report last week that enterprise zones have not proven to be effective at creating jobs and recommended abolishing them.

But the report also cautioned against the governor’s proposal to void businesses’ earned and unused tax credits. The report notes many businesses made decisions based on the expectation of those future credits. Enterprise zone supporters have also questioned the legality of eliminating the retroactive credits.

Premier Finishing employees enjoyed the news conference.

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