Columbiana enterprise zone covers most of city

COLUMBIANA – The city is moving forward with an economic development tool that offers tax incentives to eligible non-retail businesses.

Creation of the enterprise zone, which was approved last week by City Council as an emergency ordinance, will encompass the entire portion of the city that lies in Columbiana County, not Mahoning County.

Creating a zone was first discussed in May and since the legislation was passed it will now be forwarded to Columbiana County commissioners for their approval, and then the Ohio Development Services Agency, which has the final say.

Businesses located in an enterprise zone must apply for the benefits through the city, and the city is not obligated to enter into any agreements with a business simply because they are located in the zone.

In an enterprise zone tax incentives are offered to existing non-retail businesses that are expanding or new businesses which would provide an economic development benefit to the municipality in which the zone is created.

In order to receive tax incentives, like real or personal property tax abatements, a business must enter into an agreement with the municipality, and incentives are negotiated on a local level.

Once an agreement is in place the business must send reports to the county development department showing they are fulfilling the agreement, and those reports are also provided to the county’s tax incentive review council.

Zones have already been established in Wellsville, St. Clair Township, Leetonia, East Liverpool, East Palestine and Center Township. The only active agreement currently is for Pennex Aluminum in Leetonia that is undergoing a $33 million expansion and received a 100 percent 15-year property tax abatement in March and a similar incentive in 2001 when it was General Extrusions.

This year’s abatement applies to only the value of the improved real estate and new equipment resulting from the expansion, according to previous reports.

Columbiana City Manager Lance Willard said both Columbiana school districts have been notified of the possible creation of the zone.

Schools are required to be notified since they will potentially be giving up future property tax revenue.

Willard also said the zone will be considered non-distressed, as the city did not meet the requirements for being a distressed zone, and that means non-retail businesses in other areas of Ohio cannot move to Columbiana to receive zone benefits.

Distressed zones are designated based on unemployment, population loss, average median income and other factors.

In other business, the police department is continuing its participation on the county Drug Task Force. The city accepted money from county commissioners to put an officer on the task force part-time last year, and Chief Tim Gladis said that officer will remain on the force another year, with additional money from commissioners.

Commissioners provided the city with $10,000 to cover the cost of the officer’s participation last year, and are offering the same amount this year.

Gladis said the same officer will remain on the force part-time while also working part-time for the local department and he believes the force is having a positive impact on the county as whole.

Council approved participation. According to the legislation the money must only be used for wages related to the task force and will not extend past one year.

Council also approved:

– Greg Gustafson for the unexpired term on the Park, Recreation and Cemetery Board that ends Dec. 31, 2014. He was the only applicant.

– A request from Paul Rance of the Columbiana Chamber of Commerce to hold the annual Christmas Parade on Nov. 21 in the evening.

– Placing a 2-mill, five-year fire levy renewal on the November election ballot. A renewal results in no tax increase to residents. The existing levy brings in $267,000 a year for the department.

– Seeking funding assistance through the attorney general’s office for DARE Grants for the local program.

– Contracting with Southeastern Equipment Co. of Canton for the purchase of a CX55B Compact Excavator to be used by both the street and water departments, at a cost of $55,829.