State program gives Entergy money for hiring local workers
The zone program, which was created in 1999, is a package of tax credits and sales tax rebates that are available to businesses that create new, permanent jobs and employ individuals from four targeted groups. Overall, the company must hire at least 35 percent of their new employees from these groups, and if Entergy is designated as a zone area, local residents will count towards that percentage.
"That is the benefit of being in the zone," said Corey Faucheux, director of the parish’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism. "It really encourages the company to hire more local workers."
To determine if the total percentage is being met, the state will take an average of the amount of workers a company has had in its previous four quarters. Once they get that total, the state is able to determine if the company meets the 35 percent goal.
There are a total of eight designated zones in St. Charles Parish, with four zones on each side of the river. The zones were set by the state and are designated in areas with high unemployment, low income, or a high percentage of residents receiving some form of public assistance.
However, local municipalities are allowed to swap zones for a company's benefit as long as no business in that zone has applied for the program, which the council decided to do in last week's meeting. The move will pay off for both the residents of St. Charles Parish and Entergy.
"If a company is not in a designated enterprise zone, they can still participate in the program, but can hire workers from any enterprise zone throughout Louisiana," Faucheux said. "However, if they are in a zone, everyone that lives in that parish qualifies for a job."
In return for hiring more workers, any company in the enterprise zone program receives a one-time tax credit of $2,500 for every new job they create.
Entergy plans to use those new workers for a project that will reduce the amount parish residents pay for power. Currently, Entergy has three generators fueled by natural gas, but the company will take one of those generators offline and build two boilers that will work on petroleum coke and coal. Once the project is complete, fuel cost should be reduced by $2 billion over the next 30 years. Not to mention that the combination of petroleum coke and coal is the cleanest technology available for solid fuel burning.
"We are looking to add 1,200 to 1,500 jobs for the project and as many as 35 to 40 permanent jobs when the project is finished," Entergy Customer Service Manager Doug Rhodes said. "Through attrition, we could have as many as 50 permanent jobs, so it is time for interested workers to connect with the River Parish Community College so that when jobs become available, they will already have the training they need."
Along with hiring workers from the parish, the zone program also targets those workers who need the most help attaining a good job. Target job pools include those who are receiving some form of public income, those whose proficiency in reading, writing, or math is below the ninth grade level, and those who are physically challenged.
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