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Perks will be part and parcel for businesses: Mount Morris poised to follow Amboy into enterprise zone

MOUNT MORRIS – Two communities are poised to get another tool that could help attract new businesses, or expand existing ones, in the coming months.

Amboy and Mount Morris are in the process of joint the Lee-Ogle enterprise zone.

The zones serve as economic development tools that use incentives like sales tax exemptions for building materials or a 50 percent property tax abatement for 6 years to encourage new businesses to open,or existing ones to expand.

The process to bring about 74 acres in Amboy into the fold started about 5 months ago, and Mount Morris is looking to put the enterprise zone stamp on nearly 200 acres, most of which is located in areas prime for industrial development.

The proposed extension includes about 100 acres of undeveloped land southeast of the village as well as the downtown and the former Quad Graphics printing plant, which shut down operations in 2011 after 113 years in business.

“They have great capacity for industrial growth, especially with work they’ve done to upgrade the infrastructure,” said Andy Shaw, zone administrator and GIS specialist for Blackhawk Hills Regional Council.

Amending the enterprise zone requires approval from its four partnering governments – Dixon, Rochelle, and Lee and Ogle counties – as well as the final sign off from the state.

The governments all initially approved ordinances ushering in Amboy, but the state sent the paperwork back saying that it needed more specific legal descriptions for the land, and the city councils and county boards had to go through the hearing and approval process again.

The hope is to have Amboy added within the next month or so, Shaw said, and Mount Morris will likely be finalized by June, depending on how long the state review from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will take.

Earlier this week, the Rochelle City Council approved the ordinance to add Mount Morris, and the Village Board approved a resolution to participate in the enterprise zone and pay $1,750 annually toward administration costs.

The ordinance will be introduced to the Dixon City Council and the Lee and Ogle county boards next week, but the Lee County Board won’t vote on it until next month.

When Amboy and Mount Morris are included, the enterprise zone will still have about 750 acres in reserve for other additions to the zone.

The zone went into effect a year ago and consists mostly of land in Dixon and Rochelle.

Communities compete for the limited number of zones the state designates, and they can cover up to 15 square miles.

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