Woodburn City Council approved to change the boundary of Woodburn’s Enterprise Zone to include the city of Gervais at the city council meeting on Jan. 13.

The approval for the Woodburn-Gervais Enterprise Zone will be determined by the state of Oregon in about two weeks.

“The benefit is that we’re getting new employers here, we’re getting new investment here and it’s good for the state of Oregon, it’s good for Woodburn, it’s good for Gervais,” stated Jim Hendryx, Woodburn’s economic development services director.

Hendryx sent the council approved report to the state on Friday. The report included a cover letter, letter of recommendations and visual boundary of the zone.

The Woodburn Enterprise Program is an incentive program that promotes economic development by waiving property taxes for qualified businesses, according to Hendryx.

The state of Oregon, which currently has 64 rural and urban statewide enterprise zones, established the enterprise program. Areas that meet specific criteria can apply to have an enterprise zone in their jurisdiction.

The cities are following in the footsteps of surrounding areas, as Hubbard, Aurora and Donald have recently combined to an enterprise zone. Silverton and Mount Angel have also merged to one enterprise zone.

“It’s showing that government is cooperating and working together to enhance our combined economic opportunities,” said Hendryx.

Woodburn was awarded and originally designated its enterprise zone in July 2010, which is up for renewal in 2020. The growth of the zone depends on if it will receive an additional award after the expiration.

Certain qualifications are required for designated zones, which include high-level poverty or the zone serving an area of need based on population income levels compared to the state’s overall income level.

Following Gervais City Council’s public meeting on Dec. 5, the city adopted the resolution and reached an agreement of joining Woodburn in its enterprise zone due to a local business’ interest. Fiber-Fab LLC, a manufacturer of showers and tubs, is seeking to add a new production line subsequent to the state’s approval, according to Hendryx.

About 80 percent of Woodburn’s working residents leave the city to commute to their jobs, he said. In turn, about 80 percent of Woodburn employees commute from outside of the city.

“I really hope that the businesses take advantage of this. I really support economic growth in Woodburn and in Gervais, I really support growth of our local small businesses,” said Lisa Ellsworth, city councilor. “Anything that we can do to help our local businesses grow and prosper will benefit Woodburn as a whole.”

After a potential business completes the certification application for the program, Hendryx has a conference with the business owner, discusses design plans and determines the business’ qualification. The qualifications include the individual business investing $50,000 or more on capital investments and increasing employment by 1 to 10 percent.

If all qualifications are met, the taxes on the new investment will be waived for three years with regards to the business maintaining its existing employment level for the duration of the program.

A provision can be made after three years that the local jurisdiction can continue the program for five years if it pays 150 percent of the county’s median wage, which is about $54,000. However, the city is not obligated to allow a business five years in the program.

“It just provides an opportunity for businesses to look in either place,” said Susie Zwemke, city manager of Gervais. “Both areas provide the property tax incentive, meaning the waiver, but I think it just provides some extra space for businesses to look at and expand based on the information that they get.”

Hendryx said he meets with several businesses a month to look at expansion plans. Due to the decreased economy, Woodburn hasn’t had additional businesses come forward.

Wilson Industries, the one business included in Woodburn’s Enterprise Program, is in the process of expanding its building after its 2012 approval. While continuing its construction, the project has evolved to open a maintenance facility and training classroom for about 30 new personnel.

Hendryx also mentioned that Do It Best and Winco are potential local businesses that could benefit from the program if they move forward with expansion plans.

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