By JASON CAMPBELL
Staff reporter of the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
LATHROP – The City of Lathrop has a vested interest in finding out the results of the straw poll the California Legislature is going to take this week regarding the 2011-12 state budget.
That’s because it currently includes Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to gut both the current redevelopment program as well as enterprise zones – a major cog in the wheel that Lathrop Economic Development Director Steve Carrigan is rolling out to attract new businesses.
Over the course of the last month he has been working closely with Ed Wanket of San Joaquin County WorkNet to raise awareness regarding enterprise zones and how they benefit local businesses by offering tax breaks if qualifying employees are hired. The tax breaks are up to $37,000 over the course of five years if the same employee is retained.
According to Wanket, almost 95 percent of San Joaquin County falls into an enterprise zone – an area designated as underserved – and 99.9 percent of Lathrop falls into the area. He has spent the last several weeks visiting Lathrop businesses to talk to them about how the program benefits them, and encouraging them to talk to their legislators to urge them to take a stand.
“What we really want people to do is call their assembly member or state senator and tell them that this is something that we need to preserve,” Wanket said. “And this is something that we need people to do soon because that deadline with the budget is coming up quickly.”
The local benefits, Carrigan said, help keep Lathrop competitive with other portions of California – essentially leveling the playing field and making them appealing to companies that might initially look elsewhere. With the enterprise zones, Lathrop’s placement along the I-5 corridor and its close proximity to Bay Area and Sacramento routes, the city is able to put out feelers to industrial and warehouse based companies that have typically settled in places Sparks, Nevada.
“There’s a real sense of urgency here for local businesses, and the clock could be running out,” Carrigan said – noting that 50 of Lathrop’s 325 businesses currently take advantage of the tax-break offerings. “We want people to learn about this program and get educated in the ways that it can help them and help the community.”
According to Californians for Jobs and Safe Communities, enterprise zones saved California $211 million last year by cutting down on the number of workers receiving unemployment benefits, shrinking the number of people receiving CalWORKS and other public assistance benefits, and saving the Department of Corrections budget $120 million by giving ex-offenders jobs that effectively cut down the rate of recidivism in state prisons.
And given San Joaquin County’s already high unemployment rate, Wanket says that if the enterprise zones were to be reworked the way that the Governor is currently proposing – cutting the $37,000 credit over five years down to a $5,000 one-time credit – lots of people that were hired and are having their salaries supplemented by that program might be facing unemployment soon.
“This is something that will only give California another black eye when it comes to business,” he said. “If it goes through as planned right now we might be looking at even higher unemployment rates and won’t have the tools at our disposal to raise it up very quickly anytime soon.”
For more information about enterprise zones, whether your business is eligible or whether you qualify as an enterprise zone hiring candidate, email Wanket at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.sjcez.org.