Rep. Gary Miller aims to lure businesses to Inland Empire with bill
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Story By Neil Nisperos | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga, has introduced a bill that would enable economically challenged areas in the Inland Empire to qualify for “empowerment zones,” similar to the state’s enterprise zones, which are being phased out by the end of the year.
The proposed federal program aims to provide tax credits, loan opportunities and other incentives for businesses to locate in an empowerment zone.
Under the bill, areas would be eligible for an empowerment zone, or EZ, designation if the average unemployment rate and the average rate of residential and commercial foreclosures in that area are each higher than the state’s rates for the period of 2009 to the date of the law’s enactment.
The legislation, for instance, would provide an annual tax credit to an employer of up to $3,000 for employees who live and work in an empowerment zone. Another provision provides a tax credit of up to $2,400 for each new employee aged 18 to 39 who lives in the EZ.
The bill, which was introduced Tuesday, also aims to extend the EZ program for three years — until the end of 2016 — and would expand the number of zones by 20, up from 30, already existing in California.
Empowerment zones were first introduced in the 1986 Internal Revenue Code. Santa Ana, the city of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County are currently empowerment zones. The last round of empowerment zones was authorized in 2001.
“We believe there are many areas within the Inland Empire that would qualify,” said Michael McAdams, a spokesman for Miller.
Fontana, as a city, had applied for a similar state program in the past.
“Generally speaking, cities need tools to help expand the economy,” said Fontana City Manager Ken Hunt. “We’re at the front lines of economic growth, so any tool we can get from our state and federal government that can give us opportunities would be great.”
Redlands-based economist John Husing, who focuses on the Inland Empire, said similar benefits and incentives for businesses were possible for areas in the Inland Empire under the state’s enterprise zone program. That program is set to end this year under new legislation that aims to divert the money toward the creation of manufacturing jobs.
“We’re looking for the state to replace what was killed off, so it would be helpful to see something like this put in place by the federal government,” Husing said. “Hopefully, the state will follow suit.”
The bill by Miller, whose 31st Congressional District includes part of San Bernardino, was co-authored by Rep. Jerry McNerney, R-Stockton.
Both Stockton and San Bernardino have been granted bankruptcy status.
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