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Brawley council seeking to form enterprise zone

April 03, 2002|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — With their eyes set on growth, city officials here are looking toward legislation that would increase the city's ability to provide tax incentives to businesses looking to locate to the area.

If adopted, the legislation would create an enterprise zone in Brawley. That is a key step, city officials say, to attract businesses that have shown interest in the city.

Since 1998 Brawley has had a manufacturing enhancement area designation from the state, which has allowed the city to offer tax incentives solely to manufacturing businesses.

While that designation has served Brawley well — it was one key element in the city's ability to attract a beef-processing plant — officials say it is limited. The MEA cannot be extended to commercial businesses or non-manufacturing industries.

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As a result, the city is looking toward Assembly Bill 499 to change the city's MEA into a state enterprise zone, That designation would allow the city to provide tax incentives to any business, commercial or industrial, looking to locate in the area.

Authored by Assemblyman Dave Cogdill, who represents the Modesto area, and Assemblyman Dave Kelley, who represents the Imperial Valley, AB 499 has passed through the Assembly and is set for a Senate hearing April 15.

Originally, AB 499 did not address changing Brawley's MEA designation to an enterprise zone, but the bill was amended to include that change.

Bill Dohring, a lobbyist in Sacramento for Imperial County and Brawley, said he saw a bill moving through the Assembly — AB 499 — to which he thought the Brawley issue could be attached. Dohring said he "hijacked" the bill, working to have the MEA issue added. With the held of Kelley, he was successful.

"That is the job of a good lobbyist," Dohring said. "You see an opportunity for your client and you take it."

If AB 499 were to pass, the northeast area of the city now covered by the MEA would be covered by the broader enterprise designation.

City officials are placing their hopes in the legislation, stating there are businesses that want to locate in the city and being able to offer tax incentives would be a key selling point.

City Manager Jerry Santillan said distribution businesses that would provide ancillary services to the beef plant are looking at the area.

Distribution centers could not receive a tax incentive under the MEA. They could receive such an incentive under the enterprise designation.

Santillan said with the success of the beef plant and the county's unemployment rate shrinking — due in large part to the 600 jobs created by the beef plant — the legislation has a strong chance of being adopted.

"Now that we have our foot in the door, we want the enterprise zone," Santillan said.

The city has had success with legislation in the past.

In 1998, after the city failed to receive an enterprise zone designation, it took matters into its own hands.

The city, with the support of then Brawley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tom Fox, sponsored legislation to create a manufacturing enhancement area designation, one that would serve cities the size of Brawley along the border.

The legislation, authored by Kelley, then a state senator, was adopted and Brawley and Calexico were granted an MEA designation.

Later, Kelley authored an amendment to the MEA that called for it to be expanded to land upon which the beef plant would be built. That amendment passed.

Brawley officials are looking toward the enterprise designation to expand the city's ability to spark job creation.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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