County seeks enterprise zone status for Columbiana

LISBON – Creating an enterprise zone in Columbiana to provide tax breaks for businesses may be put to use sooner rather than later.

Columbiana County commissioners on Wednesday voted to apply for enterprise zone (EZ) status on behalf of the city, which is the second step in the process, with the application forwarded to the Ohio Development Services Agency for approval. The state has 60 days to act on the application, according to county Development Department Director Tad Herold.

Once an EZ is in place the municipality can offer tax exemptions to existing businesses wanting to expand or to new businesses interested in relocating. The exemptions are only on new property and business taxes created by the project and are tied directly to job creation that would result.

“An enterprise zone is an opportunity to offer certain incentives to businesses looking to relocate or expand,” Herold said. “Columbiana is interested in expanding its footprint and this will help them do that.”

First up may be Reichard Industries in Columbiana, a steel service and supply company. Columbiana City Manager Lance Willard, who attended the meeting, said Reichard is contemplating expanding either in the city or at another company location in Trumbull County. This would result in the creation of 20 to 40 additional jobs.

“They’re going to expand somewhere and this might help them make that decision,” he said.

“We feel that when an industry calls us we want to have a tool in the tool box that can help them come here,” Willard told commissioners.

Herold said Columbiana wants to be in a position to help its existing businesses and attract new industries by creating an EZ.

“I can’t say it’s simply because of Reichard Industries but they (Columbiana officials) are aware and want to make it one of their projects,” Herold said.

Only non-retail businesses are eligible to participate in an EZ agreement.

To receive the tax breaks, the business must enter into an agreement to, among other things, create a certain number of jobs within a specific time frame. Annual reports must be submitted to the state and county development department to ensure compliance and that the promised jobs have been created.

Commissioner Mike Halleck congratulated Willard on having the foresight to create an EZ.

“You’re proactive. It’s all about jobs,” he said.

Only municipalities with a population of at least 300,000 can apply directly to the state for an EZ designation. Smaller communities, such as Columbiana, must have the county commissioners apply on their behalf.

EZs have already been established in other communities and townships within the county. The only active agreement is for the Pennex Aluminum plant in Leetonia, which received a tax break for a $33 million expansion that is expected to increase the size of the workforce from 65 employees to 140.