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Griffin: Enterprise Zone is crucial for Coles County

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The mural near the Coles County Courthouse in Charleston is shown. Charleston, Mattoon and Oakland officials worked with the group Coles Together to land a critical Enterprise Zone designation. 

After six months of preparation and submission of nearly 1,800 pages of justification, Coles Together’s application for Enterprise Zone designation was awarded by Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier this month. It will take effect Jan. 1, 2020. The application was a joint effort of Coles Together, the city of Charleston, the city of Mattoon, and the city of Oakland. The new zone will be administered by Coles Together.

The award means Coles Together will be able to assist business location and expansion projects with tax incentives designed to stimulate economic growth and job creation.

In addition to providing benefits for the industrial sector, Coles Together added incentives for retail, commercial, and service firms. Previously, only industrial firms were eligible for enterprise zone benefits. Adding incentives for retail, commercial, and service businesses will provide support for a sector that is important to the local community and adds stability to our economic base. The enterprise program stimulates a net gain in property tax revenue and also spurs new jobs and additional income for the county.

New benefits for Coles County businesses that undertake an expansion or new construction within the nearly 15-square-mile zone boundary are a sales tax exemption on building materials and an abatement on the new tax increment created by the improvement or new construction.

For retail, commercial, or service businesses, taxes levied in the first year will be abated by 100%. Taxes levied in the second year will be abated by 75%. Taxes levied in the third year will be abated by 50%. Abatement will cease after the third year.

For manufacturing and industrial businesses, taxes levied in years 1 through 10 will be abated by 100%. Abatement will cease after the 10th year.

Winning the new zone was critical to continued success and growth in the business community. Without it, Coles County would have been at a significant disadvantage to other communities with zones that are able to attract and provide incentives for businesses.

Preparing the application, Coles Together worked closely with the cities to identify areas targeted for development. For example, the city of Oakland included the entire downtown square in the new zone where potential exists to develop the community in a way that best serves the citizens. It is critically important for a community the size of Oakland to have access to this economic development tool to maintain its competitiveness.

Coles Together is in the process of notifying all businesses located in within the 15-square-mile territory of the new Coles County zone about the benefits they will be eligible to take beginning Jan. 1. In the meantime, you may learn more about the program and find out if your business is in the zone, by contacting the Coles Together office at or 217-258-5627.

Griffin is president, Coles Together, the non-profit economic development organization for Coles County.


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