In The Zone

Chatham County has implemented the first of what local officials hope will be a series of enterprise zones – districts offering tax breaks as incentives for business to relocate or expand to slow growth areas of the county.

Enterprise Zone 1 is located in an unincorporated area and runs along the north side of the President Street Extension from Gen. McIntosh Boulevard to the Wilmington River. Industries and businesses locating or expanding within the zone that are willing to implement “green” building practices will be eligible for up to five years of property tax abatement. That’s in addition to tax credits for hiring workers from within the adjacent poverty-stricken census tract and waived permitting fees. By using recycled materials, solar panels and energy conserving products, businesses can qualify for other tax breaks.

“We’ve never had anything like this so [the enterprise zone is] really a wonderful step in that direction,” says Lee Grimes, director of research and established businesses for the Savannah Economic Development Authority.

The city of Savannah also is planning its own districts to encourage other kinds of business more appropriate to an urban environment. These so-called opportunity zones can be layered on top of enterprise zones to provide enhanced state incentives as well.

“It also opens [the zone] up to any kind of business,” Grimes says. “The city wants to go that level to the opportunity zone because the city doesn’t want manufacturers in their city limits, they’re looking for more support businesses and maybe special tourism attractions.” – Randy Southerland

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