Renewal communities discussed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

FERRIDAY &8212; A federal program that gives some Concordia Parish businesses a big advantage was the topic of discussion Thursday at the parish&8217;s community center.

Northern Concordia Parish was designated a Renewal Community in 2002 when the federal program started. This means businesses in the area get tax breaks if they hire local workers.

All businesses have to do is fill out an area of their tax form saying they are in a Renewal Community.

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For each employee who lives in the renewal community, the business can get $1,500 in tax credits. The program also allows credits for buying new equipment.

Census numbers on poverty and unemployment determined which communities qualified for the RC status in 2002. The program will run through 2009.

Although the federal program, through Housing and Urban Development, has been in place several years, some businesses don&8217;t know about it, President and CEO of the Northeast Louisiana Economic Alliance Tana Trichel said.

&8220;New businesses open, and we don&8217;t want any business to miss out on the opportunity,&8221; Trichel said.

Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has supported the program, spoke at the meeting, as did Donald Mains with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

&8220;It encourages businesses to hire local people, upgrade equipment and expand,&8221; Mains said.

About 40 communities nationally are designated Renewal Communities, all of whom can draw from $5.6 billion in tax credits.

&8220;It&8217;s spread over all the communities,&8221; Mains said. &8220;It really encourages you to keep the fruits of your labor rather than send it off to Washington.&8221;

About one-third of Louisiana&8217;s property falls under its four Renewal Community areas, Director of Renewal Communities Leslie Lee said. When it comes to populations, though, much of those areas are sparse.

Mains and Landrieu have spoken to communities across the state in a grassroots effort to educate people about the program.

&8220;It&8217;s easy for big companies &8212; they have CPAs to look for these things,&8221; Mains said. &8220;We want to make sure the mom and pop businesses take advantage of it.&8221;