Businesses may earn tax credits

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 24, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. – Businesses in parts of impoverished northeast Louisiana, including Ferriday, would qualify for thousands of dollars in tax credits if the area is named as a federal empowerment zone.

And Ferriday has already agreed to put up $10,000 to make it happen, said Buddy Spillers, president of the Macon Ridge Economic Development Region.

Gov. Mike Foster’s office must submit an application for the designation by Oct. 1 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will name empowerment zones by the end of the year. &uot;And we feel really good about our chances,&uot; Spillers said.

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Empowerment zones, or EZs, are chosen based in part on the incidence of poverty in the proposed EZ area, Spillers said. As of 1989 – the latest statistics available – 30.6 percent of Concordia residents lived below the poverty level.

&uot;That (application) will have to include a strategic plan on how we plan to address that poverty,&uot;&160;said Spillers, whose Ferriday-based organization is helping put together the application with the help of consultants.

And in a special meeting Wednesday night – held without notifying the press – the Ferriday Town Council agreed to spend $10,000 to help fund the writing of the strategic plan.

The total cost of compiling the strategic plan, which will be compiled with the help of consultants Strategy Team of Chattanooga, Tenn., will be between $55,000 and $60,000.

Originally, the proposed empowerment zone (EZ) area only included parts of Tensas, East Carroll and Madison parishes.

But proposed EZs can have up to 30,000 residents, and that area only held about 24,000 people. Ferriday’s census tract, which was added to the proposed EZ area, has 5,927 people.

Governing bodies in the parts of Tensas, East Carroll and Madison parishes that are part of the proposed EZ area have already agreed to pay a total of $30,000 to help fund the strategic plan.

If the area receives an EZ designation, new and existing businesses in that area would qualify for up to $3,000 per employee in tax credits. Although no grant money has been set aside for the EZs yet, Spillers said Congress may appropriate that money next year.

Current poverty statistics for Louisiana parishes for the year 2000 are not yet available from the Census Bureau.

Macon Ridge applied in 1998 for two EZs – one including Concordia, Catahoula, Franklin, Morehouse and Tensas parishes and one including East Carroll Parish and parts of West Carroll and Richland parishes. Both applications were denied.

But since two areas in the proposed EZ region have already been designated as enterprise communities – a designation that carried with it less than $300 million in federal money – &uot;we have a leg up this time,&uot; Spillers said.