Bend City Council ends 2015 on a business-friendly note

What’s responsible for nearly 400 jobs and about $100 million worth of investment in Bend? The Bend Enterprise Zone.

On Wednesday, Bend City Councilors approved a five-year Bend Enterprise Zone Property Tax Exemption for capital investment with Patheon Development Services, Inc. Currently 27 companies are utilizing the Bend Enterprise Zone for expansion.

Bend Economic Development Director Carolyn Eagan said the City of Bend has a state-approved enterprise zone, which allows companies to abate personal property taxes. This zone includes much of the commercial and industrial area in Bend.

To qualify for a three-year abatement, companies must be located in the enterprise zone, make an investment in equipment or property and agree to increase employment by 10 percent, Eagan said. If companies are willing to make significant investments in the City of Bend, special circumstances are made that would allow companies to apply for a five-year abatement. In order to qualify for a five-year abatement, companies must meet the requirements of the three-year abatement and make sure the jobs created pay 150 percent of the industry average wage in Deschutes County.

Bend City Councilor Barb Campbell said these kinds of incentives could encourage other companies to build or expand their businesses in Bend.

“We’re helping to create a business-friendly community here in town,” Campbell said.

Eagan said the enterprise zone is the only incentive the City of Bend really has to offer businesses. She said it’s a way the city can help obtain living-wage jobs, as well as encourage businesses to invest and expand locally.

Vance Cooper, project manager for Patheon, said the property tax exemption would be helpful for Patheon and benefit the Bend community.

“Almost exclusively, all of our clients are out of state. So, the money that we’re being paid is coming from elsewhere,” Cooper said. “We’re actually building wealth here from money outside of Oregon.”

Eagan said the abatement would cost the city about $80,000 over five years.

“For me, the tradeoff seems more than good enough to get those jobs in our community,” Eagan said.

Mayor Jim Clinton said the Oregon State Legislature should consider changing it’s policy regarding personal property tax if the state is serious about attracting the right kinds of companies.

“We have, in Oregon, a really poor public policy; a really backwards kind of incentive for companies, which is they have to pay property tax on business equipment,” Clinton said. “That is really dumb. It serves no public purpose. It brings in some tax revenue, but boy does it ever discourage companies from investing in equipment, especially these high tech companies.”

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