COLUMBIA — The new Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ) Board reviewed two new zone options at its first meeting Friday morning.
Bernie Andrews, executive vice president of Regional Economic Development Inc., talked to the board about new zone maps called for by the previous board.
There are two proposals currently under consideration. The first involves one contiguous zone; the second involves two zones, one in north Columbia and one in south Columbia.
Andrews described potential manufacturing and industrial sites, as well as existing manufacturers, within the boundaries of zones in both scenarios.
Andrews said two of the three proposed maps would not contain any new census blocks. The north zone would incorporate one new census block, which includes the Parkade neighborhood.
"There is a company that is considering moving to Columbia, and it’s looked at various sites in Columbia," Andrews said. "The only site that would work for that company is in that (new) census block group."
Andrews said the contiguous map proposal required the addition of three primarily residential census block groups in order to qualify for the program, resulting in a total of 14. The north zone map would include only eight census block groups, while the south zone map would include four.
John Strotbeck, the newly re-elected chair of the board, said there were few negatives to creating two separate zones.
“It’s basically administrative,” Strotbeck said. “It’d be two applications.”
Anthony Stanton, one of the board's new members, raised the issue of using 2000 data instead of 2010 census data.
The Missouri Department of Economic Development, which administers the EEZ program, has not yet updated the poverty information it uses to qualify census blocks for an enhanced enterprise zone. While the state will consider only the 2000 data, Stanton said the board should still look at the 2010 data.
“We’re exceeding the minimum requirements,” Stanton said.
Jeremy Root, another new board member, agreed the most recent data for poverty should inform the board’s decisions.
“I think our community has asked for us to understand it, and they’re going to ask for City Council to understand it, as well,” Root said.
Root also said he wanted the board to get input from residents within the zone, since they were most likely to be affected. The board members discussed the issue and informally agreed to invite affected neighborhood associations to future meetings once the zone proposals are finalized.
“We don’t want to create any bigger fights than we have to,” Stanton said.
Strotbeck asked whether the Columbia City Council had any timeline for the recommendation. REDI President Mike Brooks said there is a company interested in coming to Columbia that is looking at tax incentives.
Catherine Parke, a member of Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia who attended Friday's meeting, said the process should not be rushed.
“That there might be a company that is considering coming to Columbia has nothing to do with it,” Parke said. “All the time that needs to be taken must be taken.”
The board also voted against adopting the previous board’s list of North American Industry Classification System codes, opting instead to discuss which sectors would be eligible at the next meeting.
Andrews also reviewed the board’s duties. Per its establishing ordinance, the board is responsible for making recommendations to the council on areas for a zone, identifying eligible industries and deciding on appropriate levels of tax abatement.
Andrews said the issue of blight was outside the scope of the board's purview and an issue for council to deal with.
“They certainly are aware of the issue of blight and are looking for avenues to address that,” Andrews said.
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