By Mario Conde

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors will send a letter to the Housing and Community Development opposing some changes pertaining Enterprise Zones.

The Housing and Community Development of the State of California, which administers the Enterprise Zone program for the State has recently proposed changes to rules governing the EZ program, which could have dramatic negative effects to businesses located in Imperial County currently participating, or wish to do so in the future. At the last meeting of the Imperial Valley Enterprise Zone JPA, it was requested that member agencies submit letter of comment letters to HCD indicating their objection to the proposed changes in the program.

The County of Imperial is concern about the changes regarding the designation of the Targeted Employment Area. The Board of Supervisors believe the regulations unjustly target rural communities such as Imperial Valley by reversing HCD policy that allowed census tracts to qualify by comparing income or state median income.

The language in the proposed new regulations only allow census tract to be deem eligible as compared to County median income. The net result 3 of the 5 current census tract used by the Imperial Valley EZ and 3 out of 5 for the Calexico-County Enterprise Zone will no longer be eligible. The County argues that if they were to be compared to the state’s median income of $61, 632 instead of the Imperial County’s median income of  $39,402 all 10 tracts would still be eligible. The County believes that these changes will make it difficult for business to qualify and take advantages of the two enterprise zones in Imperial County. The County suggested in the letter to have the legislature to update the enterprise zone statue, retaining the intent of the program not penalize rural areas like Imperial County.

“This will significantly affect businesses in Imperial County that take advantage of the Enterprise Zone Program, in particular small, locally owned businesses.” County Chairman Ray Castillo stated in the letter.

Imperial Valley Enterprise Zone Manager Daniel Fitzgerald said the proposed changes to the TEA, limitation on “retro” vouchering to only one year, and increased documentation requirements to demonstrate TEA residency will severely limit the ability of businesses to use the Enterprise Zone program. Fitzgerald said the Assemblyman Manuel Perez has introduced legislation to eliminate these proposed changes and bring it back to the legislature. Deputy CEO Andy Horne added that is a backdoor approach to reduce the Enterprise Zone program.

The Board approved this item unanimously by a vote of 4-0. Supervisor Mike Kelley was absent from this meeting.

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