Having worked in economic development for the past 22 years and working in an area with an Enterprise Zone, I certainly understand the importance of having the zone in new recruitment efforts and retention efforts. There is a tremendous amount of work on the local level that goes into the potential formation of an Enterprise Zone prior to state approval. First, I think the EZ should be amended to work better with today's economic development needs. I think the state EZ is now 22 years old and things have changed. I think the guidelines should reflect small businesses and not just the larger ones with big capital investment and job creation. I don't necesssarily agree that it should just be for low income/high unemployemnt areas. I would hope that the program can be revisited to inlcude something for everyone and make the rural areas more competitive with the suburban and urban areas in th state. Thank you for the opportunity to express my thoughts on the EZ.
When Pittsylvania County Staff began their comprehensive enterprise zone amendment process, we realized that much of our existing designated zones were being highly under-utilized with new homes, schools, that had been built in the zone and/or the lack of needed industrial infrastructure. To make better use of the zones, Staff reviewed the possibility of shifting the under-utilized zone acreage to existing industrial parks and strategic economic development properties that were not in the zone. After Staff tabulated the desired acreage to be amended (deleted and added), we realized that there was a maximum deletion clause in the Virginia Administrative Code (13VAC5-112-490. Amendment of Approved Applications) that restricted requested deletions to 15% of the zone total acreage.
Delegate Danny Marshall has submitted HB 431 that would ammend the Code of Virginia, supersede the Virginia Administrative Code, and would result in the removal of the maximum deletion clause and instead provide that the cumulative net acreage of the zone, after requested deletion and addition amendments, cannot exceed the maximum and minimum zone acreages as given in subsection C of § 59.1-542.
By this proposed bill removing the maximum deletion requirement, it gives locales more flexibility in better utilizing their zones and removes the issue of comprehensive enterprise zone amendments taking multiple years due to locales having to piecemeal the requests to meet the 15% maximum deletion cap. It will also remove the burden from DHCD staff, of trying to calculate and keep track of the percentage of total zone deletion during an amendment process. This flexibility will enable host localities to experience greater impacts from the zones and will put Virginia in a better position to “win” more projects by having appropriate land zoned for these real property investment and job creation-based incentives.
The proposed bill also clarifies the land area requirements associated with designated enterprise zones, by including language from the appropriate Virginia Administrative Code section (13VAC5-112-440. Zone Eligibility Requirements), which clearly states the minimum and maximum acreage for designated zones within cities, towns, and unincorporated areas of Counties (also known as rural Virginia).
Pittsylvania County, and its Board of Supervisors, thank Delegate Marshall for sponsoring this bill. We sincerely believe that its passage will result in making an already effective economic development tool and program even better, which both directly and indirectly results in improving the public health, safety, and welfare.
Having worked with the EZ program by preparing application packages for over 15 years, I agree with prior comments concerning the changing economic landscape. Directing the program toward smaller towns and rural localities and most importantly toward smaller businesses would be beneficial. Thank you.