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MATTOON -- An economic development tool will remain in place in Coles County with state approval of the county's new enterprise zone designation.

An enterprise zone has been in place in the county for 29 years but the program needed to be renewed and there are some changes to the incentives it offers, according to officials.

The new zone designation goes into place at the first of next year. For the first time, retail, commercial and service businesses will be eligible for enterprise zone incentives. Previously, only industrial businesses qualified.

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In a news release, Angela Griffin, president of Coles Together, the county's economic development organization, said the change "will provide support for a sector that is important to the local community and adds stability to our economic base."

Griffin also said the program "stimulates a net gain in property tax revenue" and leads to job and income growth.

Coles Together administers the enterprise zone program in the county. The news release said the renewal means the organization "will be able to assist business location and expansion projects with tax incentives designed to stimulate economic growth, job creation and revitalization in depressed areas."

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The enterprise zone allows for 10 years of property tax abatements on new or renovated construction projects at businesses located with the zone's territory, along with other incentives.

The enterprise zone covers a total of 15 square miles across the county, mostly in the cities of Charleston, Mattoon and Oakland and along Illinois Route 16.

Since the program was first put in place in the county, 178 projects have taken place in the enterprise zone, the news release said.

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It said that resulted in $497 million in private investment and the creation of 2,603 jobs and the retention of 12,262 positions.

The new designation will be in place for 15 years, with a review after 13 years for a possible extension, according to information from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

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Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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