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Amboy positioned to become part of Lee-Ogle enterprise zone

AMBOY – The city is looking to land a seat at the Lee-Ogle enterprise zone table and make development more appealing to businesses.

Enterprise zones serve as economic development tools to draw in new businesses or expand existing ones through incentives like sales tax exemptions for building materials and a 50 percent property tax abatement for 6 years.

The new Lee-Ogle zone went into effect Jan. 1 and consists mostly of land in Dixon and Rochelle.

Amboy was included in the previous zone established in 1986 but much of the city and other towns were taken out with the goal of having a stronger application in the state competition for a spot, said Andy Shaw, zone administrator and GIS specialist for Blackhawk Hills Regional Council.

There were 18 applicants vying for 12 available spots, and the Lee-Ogle zone was ranked sixth among them.

"To have the most competitive application, we tightened it up," he said.

The application took 6 months to prepare, filled seven large binders and cost $60,000.

One of the first decisions of the Lee-Ogle enterprise zone board was to bring Amboy back into the fold, especially because prior incentive agreements made with Sensient Flavors and Maplehurst Farms could not move forward unless they were back in the zone, Shaw said.

Nearly 74 acres in Amboy will be added, leaving about 947 acres of unallocated zone remaining. Zones can cover 15 square miles, and the Lee-Ogle zone pocketed more than 1,000 acres to use for future development projects.

"Whether it's a factory or a store, business is business," Amboy Mayor John Schamberger said. "We'll be more appealing to businesses wanting to come to town with the zone."

The four partnering governments – Dixon, Rochelle, Lee and Ogle counties – will all have to approve ordinances to add in the land and to have Amboy be a partner.

"It's a true partnership where we work together for the betterment of all of the parties," Shaw said.

The Whiteside-Carroll enterprise zone has about a dozen government partners.

The city will pay a one-time fee of $3,000 and pay about $760 annually for the zone administration, an amount based on a formula and acreage, he said.

Shaw said he expects to send out paperwork to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to approve the zone amendment in a month or so and have Amboy added by the end of the year.

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