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Fulton County: $1B investment in enterprise pacts reported

WAUSEON - Across Fulton County, more than $1 billion has been invested by businesses with enterprise zone agreements, according to a recently completed projects report.

The report, prepared annually by Fulton County Economic Development and submitted to the Ohio Department of Development, lists 47 active enterprise zone agreements, including 18 in Archbold; 11 in Delta; five in Fayette; three in the Metamora-Lyons area; and 10 in Wauseon.

Swanton doesn't have any active agreements, but the village is working to attract economic development through other incentive arrangements, including a Community Reinvestment Area, which would allow developers building on land within its boudaries to apply for lengthy tax abatements.

The enterprise zone agreements are important to the county because they stimulate the local economy by providing jobs and a tax incentive for businesses.

Under such an agreement, businesses are granted tax abatements on property taxes for about seven or 10 years, and generally reimburse an amount equal to the abatement to the local schools, or a combination of schools and local government.

The Fulton County agreements are "very valuable to the schools" because of the donations that businesses make to local school districts, said Lisa Arend, assistant director for Fulton County Economic Development.

During the last eight years, for instance, the Pike-Delta-York school district has received about $7 million in donations from North Star. Other entities, including York Township, Four County Career Center, and the Delta Public Library, also receive yearly donations from North Star.

According to the report about the county:

• New jobs created by the firms with enterprise zone agreements total 2,103 with 1,082 jobs retained as of Dec. 31, 2004.

• New annual payroll is reported at $86,844,776.

• Investment totals $1,094, 842,036.

• Through 2004, businesses have paid about $10 million in real property taxes and donations and about $23.2 million in personal property taxes and donations.

Through the years, most firms have complied with terms of the agreements, officials said. Many businesses exceed figures outlined in the agreements, such as adding more jobs than anticipated or investing more money than predicted, Ms. Arend said.

For example, North Star BlueScope Steel, LLC, committed to personal property investment of $367 million, but the investment totals $483 million, she said. The investment for real property was expected to be $75 million, but it stands at $85 million, she said. The number of jobs committed was 348, and there were 336 workers as of Dec. 31.

In recent years, the number of agreements across the county has held steady at nearly 50. The state requires that the county monitor the agreements.

Locally, the information is submitted to the Tax Incentive Review Committee that looks over the job numbers and investment levels. County commissioners also review the report.

In Swanton, a Community Reinvestment Area program enacted in December, 2003, allows the village to grant tax abatements up to 100 percent of the value of new buildings or the improvements to existing, nonresidential buildings, said Jon Gochenour, village administrator. By abating property taxes, the village hopes to attract interest in the revitalization of buildings and encourage nonresidential construction, such as office buildings, he said.

The village is in the preliminary stage of setting up a tax-increment financing district that would provide an additional incentive to help promote economic development.

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