Controversy Remains After EEZ Approval

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council approved the enhanced enterprise zone, or EEZ, unanimously Monday, but not without controversy. The ongoing discussion of the ordinance started in February, and has troubled many citizens since.

An EEZ provides a tax credit for new or expanding businesses within areas that have "blight." Blight is defined as an underdeveloped area, generally where there is more poverty. The areas in Columbia that have been mentioned as EEZ applicable are Route Z and Route B. This definition has angered many citizens and they say it will take advantage of the poor.

Supporters say it will bring manufacturing jobs to Columbia, which is important for people without college degrees.

"It is a competitive environment, we are competing, we want those jobs here, we believe those jobs can create long term value for our community," said Mike Brooks from Regional Economic Development, Inc., or REDI.

REDI is one of the main supporters of EEZ and said it already has a perfect candidate interested in Columbia.

The opposition said EEZ takes advantage of the poor, using them to bring in business. Keep Columbia Free believes it hurts a free market.

"REDI bills this as a jobs program, to bring competitive jobs to Columbia, and I have long said we should call this for what it really is, this is corporate welfare, and these are corporate subsidies," said Mitch Richards, treasurer of Keep Columbia Free.

Keep Columbia Free plans to start the recall process for city council members. It will also gather signatures for a petition to get rid of the EEZ advisory board.