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Zones offer economic incentives

By Noel Oliver

The Farmville Herald

Though Virginia Enterprise Zones (VEZ) continue to pop up across the state, Prince Edward County is the only area in The Herald’s coverage area that currently has one.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently announced five new zone designations in southside and southwest Virginia, according to a press release from his office.

Buckingham nor Cumberland have such zones within its borders but are seeking new businesses and marketing strategies in other ways.

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) oversees and administers the enterprise zone program. The department provides state and local incentives to investors and new businesses with the intention of supporting the creation of jobs and attracting private investment into the designated areas.

Job Creation Grants (JCG) and Real Property Investment Grants (RPIG) are associated with the zone designations, according to the governor’s release.

Participating localities can offer local incentives to enhance the VEZ incentives.

According to county documents, between 2003 and 2014 DHCD oversaw and administered grant funds to about 59 applicants in Prince Edward’s enterprise zone, totaling over $3.4 million in business assistance.

The VEZ in Prince Edward is made up of two corridors. One is a section of U.S. Route 15 from the county line through Farmville. The zone intersects with Third and Main streets. In downtown Farmville the zone is only a few blocks deep and does not include Centra Southside Community Hospital or Longwood University. From the Third and Main intersection the zone extends west along Third Street to Dowdy’s Corner and runs along 460 west. The second section is in the Rice area.

The zone encompasses parts of Lunenburg and Charlotte counties.

Prince Edward’s enterprise zone includes Walmart and the shopping center around it, Lowe’s, the county’s industrial park and several other businesses.

County Economic Development Director Sharon Carney called the VEZ program an “extremely and increasingly competitive program. It really is one of the shining stars in terms of success in bringing business into our state.”

Due to the competitive nature of the program timing is crucial when looking to land a new enterprise zone. Buckingham County Administrator Rebecca S. Carter told The Herald that seeking a VEZ is not a current priority for the county.

“If we decided to seek zone designation in the future, it would be up in the northern end of the county. We have the railroad there, the [James] River is there and we already have about 16 miles of natural gas pipeline on that end,” she said.

Carter said the county will continue to work on marketability to attract new businesses.

Cumberland County Administrator Vivian Seay Giles could not be reached for comment.

According to McAuliffe, “The enterprise zone program is an important tool that will help in our efforts to build a new Virginia economy. By providing both local and state incentives, we are creating a pro-business climate that not only attracts new businesses, but also helps our existing businesses grow.”

“In the last grant year, 1,321 jobs were created and $245 million in qualified real property investments were made in communities across Virginia through this program,” said Secretary of State Maurice Jones.

The program’s wage-based job creation grants are based on net new job creation exceeding a four-job threshold, according to DHCD. Grant amounts vary depending on the amount of wage and percentage above the current federal minimum wage in a grant-eligible position.

The zone’s RPIG program provides grant funding based on “qualified investments made to commercial, industrial and mixed-use buildings or facilities located within the boundaries of an enterprise zone,” according to the department.