Enhanced Enterprise Zone Talks Bring Concerns

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COLUMBIA - Some residents are concerned about tax incentives offered in Enhanced Enterprise Zones, or EEZs, and plan to talk about both at an informational session Tuesday night.

According to Columbia Regional Economic Development Incorporated, an EEZ is a state program designed to create jobs, particularly in areas with high unemployment and low income. The program offers a combination of state tax credits and a partial abatement of local property taxes to new or expanding businesses that create good jobs in targeted industries.

Qualified businesses exclude retail shops, restaurants, educational facilities and gambling establishments. EEZs support the establishment of manufacturing companies, creative and professional businesses and arts, entertainment and recreation services. Currently, Columbia does not have EEZ representation, but 118 other Missouri communities have EEZs.

City officials say the goal is to bring companies into priority areas such as Discovery Ridge, Route B, the Business Loop and downtown.

Douglass Park Neighborhood Association President Tyree Byndom lives in the area that may be developed. He said he is worried history will repeat itself.

"We are trying to make sure the Regional Economic Development and city process is just," Byndom said. "We don't want to run into another sharp end. That's how they destroyed the black community with blight and eminent domain in 1956 to 1960," he added.

Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid said EEZs have nothing to do with eminent domain.

"I acknowledge that people won't believe me. This is all about creating jobs. My job is to find a financially secure future," said McDavid.

Talks about bringing an EEZ to Columbia have been preliminary. This is only the second meeting the group will have in Columbia. The informational session will be held at city hall at 5 p.m.