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Business Plan Enterprise Zone Designation Sought
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A couple of years after the fact, Escalon is one of two San Joaquin County cities looking to join in the county's Enterprise Zone designation, approved by the state in June 2008.

Council members approved a resolution supporting the expansion of the Enterprise Zone at their Monday, Dec. 6 meeting, hoping to be included in the expansion along with the neighboring city of Ripon.

"The current SJCEZ (San Joaquin County Enterprise Zone) is approximately 656 square miles," noted city Public Works Director John Abrew in his staff report. "The County's current partners are the cities of Lodi, Stockton, Lathrop, Tracy and Manteca."

The zone designation is for a 15-year period and expansion to include portions of both Ripon and Escalon would add an estimated 5.5 square miles to the zone.

"The State allows Enterprise Zones to expand up to 15 percent during the life of the zone," added Abrew, noting that the Ripon-Escalon inclusion would account for adding less than 1 percent more land to the size of the zone.

In Escalon, Abrew said the designation is sought for "basically our existing commercial and industrial" properties, which covers the C1, C2 (commercial) and M1, M2 (industrial) zones. Those primarily run along the McHenry Avenue-Escalon Avenue corridor north and south of the city, along with a small strip of Highway 120 east toward Oakdale and a portion of the land on the northwest side of Highway 120 west toward Manteca, including the Liberty Business Park area off Brennan north of Highway 120.

The council is hoping for the state to approve the request, said City Manager Henry Hesling, since being part of an Enterprise Zone does carry some benefits for businesses and could aid in attraction efforts to bring new business and industry to the city.

"The Enterprise Zone offers attractive incentives for businesses located within the designated area of the zone and has been a major consideration for the majority of new companies that have either moved to the area or are considering a business location in San Joaquin County," Abrew wrote in his report.

Figures offered to the council cited over 5,000 businesses being contacted with information on the county's Enterprise Zone since its 2008 designation. Abrew also indicated that the zone staff has processed 14,600 applications for Enterprise Zone tax credit vouchers. Those vouchers represent an estimated $546 million in potential tax credits for county businesses.

San Joaquin County Enterprise Zone Administrator Fran Aguilera was in attendance at the council meeting, available to answer any questions council members had regarding the designation and benefits offered to the city through its hoped-for inclusion.

"Enterprise Zone designation is one of the most important incentives available to attract and retain businesses in California," Abrew said.

Hesling agreed that being included in the county's Enterprise Zone designation makes sense, as the city looks to bring business in to the community in the years ahead.

"Escalon and Ripon, for whatever reason, at the time of the original application did not go in on it," Hesling said.

Now, though, as enticing businesses has gotten increasingly harder in the tough economic times, Hesling said any kind of advantage can be helpful.

Abrew said all other cities that are already part of the Enterprise Zone, along with the county itself, must approve the inclusion of Ripon and Escalon, and then the request will be sent on to the state for review and possible approval.

Hesling said he doesn't anticipate any problem with the state approving the expansion. Abrew said he's hoping all the paperwork will be in state hands by next month, with the expansion of the Enterprise Zone anticipated "hopefully by the end of February."