State Approves New Enterprise Zone

By Mickey Powell. Martinsville Bulletin Staff Writer. The state has approved a new joint enterprise zone for Martinsville and Henry County to replace one that will expire later this year, according to local officials.

Businesses locating or expanding in enterprise zones may qualify for incentives.

On the state level, incentives include job creation and real property investment grants, according to the website of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers the program.

Incentives at the city and county level include waivers and temporary rebates on certain taxes and fees imposed by the local governments.

New and expanding businesses ultimately mean more revenue for the city and county, such as through taxes paid by the firms related to their investments, even if the localities have to lose some money at first.

“Usually, there has to be an addition to the (local) tax base” in order for a company to qualify for incentives, said Martinsville Community Planner and Zoning Administrator Susan McCulloch.

“We (local officials) work with each business individually to see what types of incentives they qualify for,” McCulloch said.

Since the state established the enterprise zone program in the early 1980s, Henry County has paid to businesses more than $10 million in enterprise zone benefits, but those firms have made almost $243 million in investments in the county, according to Wade Nester, the county’s enterprise zone coordinator.

McCulloch said that since 2005, the city has paid about $1.4 million to companies that made about $18.1 million in investments in Martinsville. She did not have figures going back more than a decade, she said.

Enterprise Zone 26, designated by the state in 1996, expires Dec. 31. The zone covers various parts of the city and county, including the Patriot Centre and Martinsville industrial parks.

Local officials do not yet know what number the state will assign the newly-designated enterprise zone, which will include most of the same areas as Zone 36, with a few changes in both the city and county.

Because of interest in developing new businesses in the Spruce Street area, the former Food Lion, Druid Lanes and Virginia Employment Commission buildings on Spruce, plus Brookdale Crossing and the shopping center on nearby Brookdale Street, are included in the new zone’s boundary as a subzone, according to city officials.

Some undeveloped land in the city off Brookdale was removed from the zone because of an apparent lack of interest in the properties by businesses in recent years, McCulloch said.

Nester said some vacant county parcels “that nobody had ever shown interest in” were removed from county parts of the zone, but a few parcels in which interest has been shown were added. The new parcels are “relatively small to the whole zone,” though, he said.

The new zone will comprise 607.5 acres in the city and 2,986.65 acres in the county, Nester said, for a total of 3,594.15 acres.

Legislation in 2005 reduced the number of potential enterprise zone designations statewide from 57 to 30, a state website shows. Local officials did not know the reasoning behind the reduction.

Thirteen localities statewide applied for five enterprise zone designations up for grabs recently, according to McCulloch and Nester. Due to the competition, they are extremely pleased that Martinsville and Henry County received a new zone, they said.

The new zone designation is for 10 years, with the possibility of two five-year renewals – for a total of 20 years – if the city and county see economic boosts within the zone, Nester said.