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Vote gives businesses tax breaks to relocate

November 13, 2002|By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to allow tax breaks for certain businesses in an attempt to create higher-paying jobs and to strengthen the financial shape of the county.

The Job Creation Tax Credit program is intended to sway businesses, high-technology companies in particular, to relocate to Washington County, county officials said.

The program encourages, through property tax credits, businesses to move to or expand in Washington County, as well as to create at least 50 new full-time jobs.

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Tim Troxell, acting director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said the new program came about when the county's Interstate 81 Enterprise Zones expired at the end of last year.

An enterprise zone is a geographic area in which economic incentives are made available to new and existing businesses that expand through capital investments or the creation of jobs.

Troxell said the Interstate 81 Enterprise Zone expired because it no longer met the requirements, dealing with unemployment and poverty rates and income levels, to keep it going.

"Ours improved so well that we were no longer qualified for the tax credit program," Troxell said after the meeting.

He said the new program will keep the county competitive with surrounding areas in attracting businesses and higher-wage jobs.

"This is another tool in (Troxell's) incentive package," County Attorney Richard Douglas said of the new tax credit program.

To qualify for the new program, a company must construct a facility of at least 30,000 square feet or expand it by that much, in addition to the creation of the 50 or more full-time jobs.

More than half of those full-time jobs must pay 150 percent or more of the county's average weekly work wage, which is $558 a week, Troxell said.

The program does not apply to restaurants or retail, hospitality or warehouse distribution companies.

County Commissioner William J. Wivell said the higher-wage jobs will boost the county's income tax revenue.

Douglas said the program, which was created through an ordinance, can be amended at anytime.

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