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Government Local

Proposal creates DeKalb County enterprise zone to boost business, industrial development

SYCAMORE – DeKalb County leaders are looking to connect the dots on a draft map for a potential enterprise zone that would include parts of several communities.

The enterprise zone’s purpose is to encourage business and industrial development or expansion through state and local tax incentives. In creating the boundaries of the area, officials tried to incorporate as many industrial and business parks that are ready now for business growth, said Paul Borek, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation.

Several different industrial areas around the county are included within the proposed boundaries. In DeKalb, the zone includes the Park 88 industrial area, as well as the Chicago West Business Center. Sycamore’s Prairie Business Park is included, as is the Cortland Industrial Park, Crossroads of Genoa Business Park, industrial property in Waterman near Monsanto, and the Sandwich Industrial Park.

The zone also includes some property on Northern Illinois University’s west campus, which could see development potential over the longer term, Borek said.

Borek said the boundaries were developed through talks with local government leaders to determine which areas were best positioned for development over a 25-year period.

The zone would not only include vacant industrial property, but also existing manufacturers and other businesses because there are state incentives available to encourage business expansion, such as sales tax exemptions on new manufacturing equipment, Borek said.

Earlier this week, county officials put forth their plan for local property tax breaks for new business development.

local tax abatements would apply to property value growth created by new construction by industrial, logistics and research-and-development firms.

The proposed enterprise zone would have to be approved by the state Enterprise Zone Board before any incentives would be offered. Information about poverty, vacant structures, large-scale business closings and more is needed as part of 10 criteria reviewed by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

There are currently 97 enterprise zones throughout the state, but DeKalb County has never had one.

Enterprise zones allow up to 15 square miles of land area be designated as such, but Borek said they will not use all of the square mileage at the time of the application to preserve the option of expanding the zone in the future. He said municipalities would continue to be kept in the loop on its progress.

Although many incentives are focused on manufacturing and research-and-development projects, commercial areas also are being included in the zone because growth in the local tax and jobs bases would be one way the zone would be evaluated in the future, Borek said.

“We encouraged the communities to focus on commercial areas that would be ripe for redevelopment or new construction,” Borek said. “The goal is to attract new investments.”

The next step is to connect the designated areas, as all intended areas need to be connected in some way. County Administrator Gary Hanson said three-foot wide strips will be used to connect all the areas on the map sometime next week.

“It will be one strange-looking polygon,” Hanson said.

Borek said something that was taken into consideration during the drafting process was the fact that DeKalb County is currently the only county in Illinois with a state university without its own enterprise zone. He said if approved, the zone could benefit the students as more businesses open up in the area.

“There would be potential for business development, research development and interacting with business leaders in the community,” Borek said.

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