Banking & Finance  June 17, 2011

EZs can benefit businesses, workers

Since Larimer County initially applied to be a part of the state Enterprise Zone program in 1993, the tax credits associated with the program have been a part of the county’s economic culture. 

Today, 70 percent of Colorado is part of one of the state’s 16 EZs, including many high-profile projects in Northern Colorado such as the ACE park and the Rialto Bridge in Loveland, and the Weld Food Bank in Greeley.

However,  according Larimer County Enterprise Zone Administrator Lew Wymisner, many business owners don’t know about EZs, how they work, or how they can benefit from them.

Enterprise zones were created by the state legislature in 1986 to attract businesses to economically distressed areas.

There are two important distinctions in EZs, according to Weld County Zone Administrator Cathy Schulte.  One component of the program applies to businesses that are located in EZs.  These businesses can use tax credits that serve as an incentive to attract and retain employers in areas where jobs are needed most.

The second component relates to taxpayers who donate to nonprofits located in EZs.  This tax credit, called the contribution credit, is available to taxpayers who make contributions for local enterprise zone development projects or for assisting job training and placement for the homeless, Wymisner explained.

The amount of the credit is 25 percent of the value of the contribution, up to $100,000, according to a fact sheet from the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

In Weld County, there are 13 agencies that benefit from the contribution credit, including the Greeley Downtown Development Authority and the Greeley Philharmonic.

All EZ businesses and organizations are held to the same standards, according to Schulte, who works through the public/private Upstate Colorado Economic Development.

“The criteria for enterprise zones are established at the state level,” she said.

Wymisner said that the duties associated with administering EZs fell upon the Larimer County Workforce Center in 1994, after the county commissioners decided that the credits would be best used in assisting those Larimer County residents in economic distress.

Once he was assigned his new task, Wymisner began using the credits to help the working poor, most often through the contribution credit.

“I can tell you about economic distress,” Wymisner said. “We see it every day in our lobby.” 

Changes not debated

Introduced during the 2011 legislative session, Colorado House Bill 1314 would have made access to EZ tax credits easier, but no decision was made before the session ended May 11. 

HB-1314 would have removed  the requirement, beginning Jan. 1, 2012, that taxpayers obtain pre-certification from the EZ administrator before “engaging in an activity for which the taxpayer intends to claim an enterprise zone tax credit.”

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge. The pre-certification requirement limits the ability to grow a business in the enterprise zone, according to Sonnenberg.

“I am disappointed that the Senate chose to not deal with Republican bills that were sent to the Senate in a timely manner,” Sonnenberg said.  He is contemplating bringing the bill back for the next legislative session.

In Weld County, Schulte is available to answer questions about the pre-certification guidelines through Upstate.

In Larimer County, anyone interested in locating a business within an enterprise zone or making a contribution to an eligible organization can check the website for the Larimer County Workforce Center, which features a locator that will tell a user if a particular address is located in an EZ.

Also available on the website is a list of agencies that offer a tax credit.  The local organizations give residents an incentive to donate their money to causes in Northern Colorado, Wymisner said, which is what people in Larimer County want.

“People would rather donate their money here than in Denver or somewhere else,” Wymisner said.

Since Larimer County initially applied to be a part of the state Enterprise Zone program in 1993, the tax credits associated with the program have been a part of the county’s economic culture. 

Today, 70 percent of Colorado is part of one of the state’s 16 EZs, including many high-profile projects in Northern Colorado such as the ACE park and the Rialto Bridge in Loveland, and the Weld Food Bank in Greeley.

However,  according Larimer County Enterprise Zone Administrator Lew Wymisner, many business owners don’t know about EZs, how they work, or how they can benefit from…

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