CHICAGO – In an aggressive move to stimulate widespread business growth and job creation in the Northern Stateline region, Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced the boundary expansion of the Freeport/Stephenson County Enterprise Zone. The expansion of the enterprise zone, which lends critical income and job creation tax credits to companies located within its borders, will trigger new development or expansion projects for at least two businesses on the outskirts of the current zone boundaries and will create 64 new jobs, retain 56 jobs and spark nearly $2.2 million in investment.
“The Freeport/Stephenson County Enterprise Zone is a tremendous asset to businesses development, allowing companies to reduce their total expenses and improve their bottom lines. By expanding the boundaries of this enterprise zone, we’re catalyzing a whole new wave of business investment and growth in the Northern Stateline region. Economic growth follows opportunity, and creating opportunity is what we’re determined to continuing doing throughout Illinois,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
Chief benefits of an enterprise zone include sales tax exemptions and tax credits for job creation. A 6.25 percent state sales tax exemption is permitted on building materials to be used in an enterprise zone, while the Enterprise Zone Jobs Tax Credit allows a business a $500 credit on Illinois income taxes for each job created in the zone for which a certified eligible worker is hired. The credit may be carried forward for up to five years.
A local enterprise zone may apply to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) for boundary expansion if the proposed area to be added meets at least one of the tests for poverty, low income, unemployment or population loss, or the proposed area will provide an immediate substantial benefit to the zone.
The Freeport/Stephenson County Enterprise Zone submitted a boundary expansion application in order to be able to extend those benefits to companies interested in investing in new projects. Those companies include:
A Title Escrow Co., Inc. plans to invest $500,000 in the rehabilitation of an existing office building in Freeport. This project is expected to create 50 full-time jobs and retain 50 full-time jobs. Torkelson Cheese Co. in unincorporated Stephenson County plans to invest $1 million to upgrade its existing plant. The project is expected to create 11 full-time jobs and retain 6 full-time jobs.
A 6,500 square foot tourist center is planned for the entrance to the City of Freeport. The Freeport Area Economic Development Foundation plans to invest $650,000 in this project, which is expected to create 3 full-time jobs.
The expansion will also assist Freeport in the creation and retention of jobs and with the stimulation of neighborhood and commercial revitalization in a downtown area of roughly 27 contiguous acres to the west of the existing enterprise zone in downtown Freeport.
“Businesses in the Northern Stateline region continue to dispel the myth that the region’s economy is based solely on old-line industrial producers who are losing their business to other markets. The reality is that there are a host of dynamic businesses in the region that have demand levels beyond their current production capacity. Gov. Blagojevich understands that by partnering with local businesses, we are creating an exciting new environment in which these companies can expand and pursue aggressive new levels of growth and prosperity,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.