Officials support enterprise zones

DeWayne Bartels

There is no consensus among local legislators that enterprise zones will be extended as they approach their legislated sunset. 

However, local legislators and economic development officials all agree that enterprise zones are a valuable economic development tool providing tax exemptions to qualified businesses. 

Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, is a sponsor of a bill in the Illinois Senate to extend the zones.

“It will come out of the Senate fine,” Koehler said.

State Rep. Keith Sommer, R-Morton, said he has not heard much discussion about the zones in the Illinois House. Sommer said he views the zones as important and not a topic of partisan disagreement.

“I’m all for it. It should have happened a long time ago,” said State Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria. “I think it will pass. I don’t know why it wouldn’t. But, something can always come up.”

State Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, said something just may come up.

LaHood said he is supportive, but hears Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan is not. 

“In the Senate, I think, it will pass by a large majority,” LaHood said. “There could be a problem in the House. I’ve heard Madigan wants to let them all expire and then turn it into a lottery.”

State Rep. Mike Unes said he had heard the same thing but would not comment about it because he had not heard it firsthand from Madigan. 

“I have sponsored several pieces of legislation to extend that. This area has benefited from it. This should have been extended before now,” Unes said. 

“It is in the House that this has fallen apart before. I don’t know if it’s partisanship or philosophical differences.”

The Central Illinois Regional Chamber Legislative Effort, also known as CIRCLE, in a position paper, said, local chambers of commerce support a 20-year extension of enterprise zones and want the Illinois General Assembly to reject proposed mandates that the prevailing wage be paid for projects within an enterprise zone. 

The CIRCLE paper said in the next five years nearly two-thirds (61 of the 97 zones in Illinois) are scheduled to expire.

“Enterprise zones work. Over the past 10 years, $29.4 billion in private investment has occurred in enterprise zones. 

“Additionally, 347,266 jobs have been created or retained in the same time period,” the CIRCLE paper said. 

“Enterprise zones are often targeted at areas that would otherwise be undesirable for real estate development. In the sense of an enterprise zone, these areas have little to no chance of being improved or redeveloped.”

See more photos and quotes from community leaders on Page A8.