Recently announced changes to the Colorado Enterprise Zone program in Colorado are likely to benefit several Northern Colorado communities.
The zone was expanded in Larimer County to include the town of Estes Park, Estes Valley and the surrounding area. Local enterprise zone administrator and Larimer County Economic Development Manager Jacob Castillo explained that the designation was the culmination of 18 months of work with the state and the communities involved.
“We’re very pleased. While the flood of 2013 was not the only factor it certainly exacerbated the challenges faced by this area and was a contributing factor in earning the designation,” Castillo said.
A map published by the state Economic Development Commission indicates newly-added areas in and adjacent to Laporte, Wellington, Fort Collins, Loveland and Berthoud. Two small areas north and east of Fort Collins and both north and west of Wellington have “graduated out” of the zone.
An enterprise zone designation promotes a business-friendly environment, offering tax incentives to encourage businesses to locate and expand in economically distressed areas of the state. Zones qualify by showing an unemployment rate 25 percent above the state average, per capita income 25 percent below the state average and/or population growth less than 25 percent of the state average in rural areas. Municipalities in an enterprise zone may be allowed increased flexibility.
Application must be made for the enterprise zone program by pre-certifying and then verifying that the announced project has been completed at the end of the year. Tax credits are available for investments (including new buildings or purchases), new employees, employer-sponsored health insurance programs, job training, vacant building rehabilitation, research and development, manufacturing and mining sales and use tax exemption, vehicle investment and financial contributions. According to Castillo, the 3 percent tax credit allowed for investments generates the most interest among participants in the program.
Adjacent to Wellington, an area extending from Colorado 1, where it turns east to become Cleveland Avenue, Wellington’s main street, and extending to Interstate 25, has been designated an enterprise zone. Castillo sees this as a healthy incentive to encouraging commercial development in downtown Wellington and the surrounding area.
“We’d like to see the area become a more robust ‘weekday economy,’” Castillo said.
In considering areas to be recommended for enterprise zone designation, Castillo looked at opportunities to connect commercial areas to each other by identifying a corridor where this would be likely to happen.
Anyone interested in learning the specific perimeters of enterprise zones in Larimer County and who is considering making application can contact Jacob Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-498-6605. The enterprise website also has information at www.advancecolorado.com/funding-incentives.