DIXON – The state has approved the Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone, solidifying a partnership between the two areas to more effectively reel in business development for the next 15 years.
The State Enterprise Zone Board on Wednesday gave its blessing for the zone, which will go into effect Jan. 1.
The region ranked sixth out of 18 applicants vying for 12 available spots.
"This is some tremendous news for the region, as it assures the continuing existence of the area’s primary economic development and incentive tool," said John Thompson, president of the Lee County Industrial Development Association.
The area’s existing zone was established in 1986 and expires at the end of 2017, but the newly approved zone will cancel out the old one's last year.
Thompson said the zone has served as a crucial factor in establishing thousands of jobs and attracting more than $1 billion in business development to the area.
"Without the zone, we would not be where we are today in terms of investment, tax base and employment," he said.
The shared zone will allow agencies in Dixon, Rochelle, Lee and Ogle counties to strengthen their efforts to boost economic growth throughout the region, said Jason Anderson, director of the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corp.
"The joint enterprise zone allows us to take barriers down and allows us to work together to bring economic development to our areas," Anderson said.
He said being able to offer incentives for existing businesses to expand or new ones to move into the area helps to offset negative perceptions companies might have with the Illinois business climate.
"It's pretty much the only economic development tool we have left in Illinois," Anderson said.
The zone expands 15 square miles, and 1,100 acres have been set aside for future development projects that might crop up.
The two primary incentives the zone can offer to businesses are sales tax exemptions for building materials and property tax abatements.
The zone's lifespan will stretch to Dec. 31, 2031, and the state will undergo a review of the zone after the first 13 years to deem whether the region qualifies for a 10-year extension.
"I think we're really going to see the benefits in the next couple of years," Anderson said.
Though the board approved the zone, it will not be officially sanctioned until a certification is issued by the director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.