Mesa County Enterprise Zone enlarged

Phil Castle, The Business Times

While the exact boundaries of the Enterprise Zone will change, the state program offering tax credits for business development will continue in Mesa County.

The redrawn and enlarged zone was among 14 across the state approved by the Colorado Economic Development Commission that will become effective in January.

Enterprise Zones are established to encourage business development in areas of economic distress by offering businesses state tax credits for everything from creating new jobs and buying equipment to  rehabilitating vacant buildings. Tax credits also are available to donors who contribute to approved projects.

“We need it. We are a distressed county,” said Terri Benson, who administers the Enterprise Zone in Mesa County as part of her duties at the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction.

The Enterprise Zone program has long been in place in Colorado to provide tax incentives that encourage businesses to locate and expand in areas with higher unemployment rates and lower income and growth rates than the state average.

Zones are reviewed and changed every 10 years to make sure they meet the criteria, Benson said.

In Mesa County, hundreds of parcels were reviewed as part of what Benson called a “massive” application. While some areas were dropped from the Enterprise Zone because they no longer met the criteria or were predominantly residential, other areas were added to the zone, she said.

The net result, Benson said, was an expansion under the new boundaries. “It looks like we got a lot bigger.”

Businesses in Enterprise Zones can qualify to receive state tax credits for hiring new employees, offering employee training and health insurance, purchasing equipment and vehicles, investing in research and development and rehabilitating vacant buildings.

Businesses must apply for and receive pre-certification prior to beginning any of the activities for which they intend to earn credits. At the end of the tax income year, businesses must certify those activities were performed.

Benson said she handles pre-certifications, while the Colorado Department of  Revenue reviews and approves certifications.

In 2014, qualifying businesses in the Enterprise Zone in Mesa County received a total of almost $400,000 in tax credits for   a combined capital investment of nearly $21 million, Benson said.

Businesses received another $60,000 in credits for creating a total of 120 new jobs and $69,000 in tax credits for employee training, she said.

Individuals also are eligible to receive tax credits for cash and in-kind contributions to qualifying projects in Enterprise Zones.

There are 19 such projects in Mesa County, Benson said, and include the Business Incubator Center and Grand Junction Economic Partnership, but also capital campaigns for Colorado Mesa University, Community Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital  and Mesa County Libraries.

Tax credits help in soliciting contributions, Benson said. “It helps these guys get donations.”

Statewide for the 2014 fiscal year, businesses in Enterprise Zones earned a total of $32.7 million in tax credits for investments, $5.29 million in credits for job training and $2.5 million in credits for creating new jobs.

For more information about the Mesa County Enterprise Zone, contact the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction at 243-5242 or visit www.gjincubator.org. Information also is available online at  www.advancecolorado.com/ez.