[The following opinion editorial was published in the February 17, 2015, edition of The Bourbonnais Herald.]
By Michael J. Van Mill
All businesses want them, but, in reality, there are very few direct incentives widely available to spur industry expansion or attract new investment. One of the most valuable inducements available to companies of all sizes in Illinois is the state Enterprise Zone Program, which provides eligibility for state and local tax incentives to companies seeking to expand and create jobs in designated high-need areas.
In Kankakee County, we are fortunate to have two enterprise zones, both of which have been instrumental in incentivizing Kankakee County’s industries to invest, grow and hire. Together, our zones have seen the addition of nearly 6,500 jobs as well as more than $409M in capital investment, helping to make Kankakee County Milken Institute’s #1 small metro in Illinois for economic growth along with Forbes’ #9 metro nationwide for cost of doing business. Most recently, our community was ranked #6 nationally in personal income growth according to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis. Given these growth indicators, great measures are being taken by local municipalities, the Kankakee County Planning Department and the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County to ensure that our community retains its enterprise zones and the competitive advantage that they provide.
New state statutes dictate that many existing enterprise zones throughout Illinois are phased out by July 2016. Communities are permitted by the state to propose plans for new zones, applications for which were due in Springfield by December 31. As the number of zones will be capped at 97, significant competition exists among those interested in securing zone designation.
Having submitted two comprehensive, data-driven applications, including more than 40 letters of support from private business, Kankakee County is well positioned to see recertification of both of its high-performing enterprise zones.
The Kankakee County Enterprise Zone (KCEZ) encompasses the villages of Manteno, Grant Park and Hopkins Park, the City of Momence, and portions of Kankakee County, while the Kankakee River Valley Enterprise Zone (KRVEZ) covers the villages of Aroma Park, Bourbonnais, Bradley and Herscher, the City of Kankakee, and additional portions of Kankakee County.
The outcomes to date for each zone have been strong. From 2005 to present, the KRVEZ has experienced more than $276M in new private capital investment and the creation of 4,074 new jobs. From the KCEZ’s inception in 1984, there have been a total of 122 projects generating $133,650,597 in new capital investment and creating 2,372 new jobs.
And, the outlook for Kankakee County’s enterprise zones is equally promising, based on marketplace projections calling for continued robust industrial growth and significant infrastructure enhancements – a new I-57 interchange at Bourbonnais Parkway, a new I-57 interchange configuration at Exit 312 in Kankakee, and development of the Illiana Expressway and the South Suburban Airport.
A Western Illinois University study commissioned to evaluate the impact of a new certified KRVEZ projects an increase of $13.1B in total economic output, the creation of 2,903 jobs, and the generation of $1.95B in labor income over the next 15 years. The analysis further estimates public revenues of $366M to state and local governments and $423M to the federal government in that same time period.
The same study of a new certified KCEZ projects an increase of $5.3B in total economic output, the creation of 2,574 jobs, and the generation of $1.4B in labor income over the next 15 years. The analysis further estimates public revenues of $371M to state and local governments and $341M to the federal government over the same time period.
Kankakee County’s business climate is stronger than it has been in decades. That good news is due, in part, to a valuable enterprise zone program that allows our industries to retain and reinvest more of their earnings, producing value in the form of jobs at all skill levels for our residents. The Kankakee County Planning Department and Economic Alliance thank their municipal partners for their strong support during the arduous application preparation process. Feel free to contact our office for more information about the Kankakee County Enterprise Zone Program or our recertification efforts.
Michael J. Van Mill, MPA, CEcD, AICP, is President/CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, a public-private partnership that works to create jobs and expand the economic base by improving the local business climate. For more information, phone 815-935-1177 or visit kankakeecountyed.org.