Williamson County working on tax incentive zone for new business - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Williamson County working on tax incentive zone for new businesses

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MARION (WSIL) -- Elected officials from several towns in Williamson County are putting together a plan to offer incentives to anyone wishing to bring their business to the area.

The towns, as well as Williamson County, are already a part of an enterprise zone that offers sales tax incentives and property tax abatements for new developments within the zone. That enterprise zone expires in November 2020.

"You must have incentives to bring business here, because everybody, all the surrounding counties, are wanting these other businesses, too," county commissioner Brent Gentry said.

There are only a certain number of enterprise zones available in Illinois and the rules recently changed, requiring Williamson County to draft a new proposal instead of requesting an extension on the current one. County commissioner Ron Ellis said it's a long application process.

"Jackson County just did this (last year)... and their project, the paperwork, when it finished, weighed 30 pounds," Ellis said.

Jackson County's enterprise zone is on a different timeline than Williamson County's, so the deadline for its application was December 2018.

The Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission is working with both counties on their applications. Executive director Cary Minnis said the state-run Enterprise Zone Board has accepted Jackson County's application and is in the process of reviewing it for approval. He said the board promised to have a decision made by the end of September.

Williamson County and the seven other towns working on the enterprise zone, including Marion, Herrin, and Carterville, have to sign off on the plan.

Ellis said the local school boards also have to be consulted.

"They're being put in a precarious situation, too," Ellis said. "If you have, in this example, a $10 million construction project, that's a lot of real estate taxes that the schools are not going to see."

The board wants to include Walker's Bluff in the enterprise zone this time around because of the planned casino, but that also has challenges.

Ellis said he has been assured by the property owners that all of the casino-related development will be squarely in Williamson County.

"The roads have to be improved dramatically to get in and out of there," Ellis said. "You have to have a complete water and sewer system, probably its own entity to handle something of that magnitude."

Everyone involved has until December to work out all the issues before the application is due. If approved, the new enterprise zone would take effect January 2021.

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