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The company will receive up to five years of tax breaks for moving and paying above-average wages.

COURTESY OF PREMIER JETS - Premier Jets personnel load supplies and equipment into planes. The company is set to build a new hangar in Scappoose.A jet ambulance company is planning to move its operations from Hillsboro to Scappoose after purchasing property near Scappoose Industrial Airpark last year.

Premier Jets, a private company that transports sensitive medical equipment, organs and patients when needed, purchased land from the Port of St. Helens and plans to build a $4.6 million facility, including a hangar and office space, in the Scappoose area.

The company has operated in Hillsboro since 1984, according to filings with the secretary of state's office.

The company intends to move its operations from Hillsboro to Scappoose, where it will build a new hangar and office space near the airport in Scappoose.

Premier Jets is one of many companies that will take advantage of enterprise zone benefits, which offer property tax forgiveness in exchange for developing in Columbia County. In this case, that's an estimated $77,000 per year the company won't have to pay in property taxes.

The company automatically qualified for three years of enterprise zone benefits in 2017 and, pending approval from the Vernonia City Council, will get another two years of tax breaks, for a total of five tax-free years.

In exchange for the additional two years of tax abatement, Premier Jets has agreed to pay its employees an average salary 150 percent of the county's average annual income of $36,900, and pay 10 percent of its abatement toward a betterment fund, which will be split between the Columbia County Economic Team and the City of Scappoose.

The company expects to start out at its new site with about 17 employees, but it plans to ramp up to 40 employees eventually, Ron Levesque, a project management director with Premier Jets, explained.

"We're expanding the business," Levesque said last Thursday, Jan. 4. "We're moving into a 40,000-square-foot hangar."

"This is a good business," Chuck Daughtry, executive director of CCET, told the Scappoose City Council last Tuesday, Jan. 2. "This is certainly a company we'd like to have in Columbia County."

Premier Jets filed for bankruptcy in 2014. That gave some members of the Scappoose City Council pause, although the council ultimately gave its blessing for the extended enterprise zone benefits.

Daughtry said the tax break program is a vital tool in recruiting businesses to locate in Columbia County.

"Washington doesn't have any state income tax, and we're competing with them," he told the Columbia County Spotlight, the Tribune's sister paper in Scappoose.

The day prior, during the enterprise zone benefit discussion, Daughtry warned that not offering the additional tax abatement benefits "sends a chilling message to all the entities that are looking to locate in Columbia County," and said regardless of how long Premier Jets stays in the Scappoose location, the city will benefit from having a newly constructed industrial building to attract business tenants.

By Courtney Vaughn
Reporter, Columbia County Spotlight
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