Local businesses will have a chance to receive tax incentives related to newly proposed enterprise zones throughout the parish that can be attained by building new infrastructure and adding jobs.
Enterprise zones are a project of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development that include incentives for businesses who build new structures, add on to existing structures and create new permanent full-time jobs in areas that are economically distressed or have a high number of residents receiving public assistance.
Because businesses can be eligible for the incentives even if they are located out of the enterprise zones, the program has received criticism in recent years. A 2012 audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor revealed that 68 percent of the incentives paid out under the program were not located in economically distressed zones as was the intent when the program was made law.
Despite the criticism, Corey Faucheux, St. Charles Parish’s director of economic development for the parish, said the enterprise zone program has been good for the parish.
“The main part of the program is to increase jobs or encourage local businesses to expand their workforce,” Faucheux said.
For each new job created, businesses receive a $2,500 tax credit. New construction and businesses expanding will receive a 4 percent rebate on sales tax on certain materials as well as a 1.5 percent refundable investment tax credit on capital improvements.
“Many of our local businesses have applied for and received the benefits of the program,” Faucheux said.
Since companies in St. Charles Parish first began participating in enterprise zone in 1999, local industry and businesses have applied for benefits related to projects over $150 million and over 5,500 jobs and countless other temporary construction jobs have been proposed.
Many of the businesses in St. Charles Parish applying for the incentives were industry giants such as Entergy, Union Carbide, Valero, Shell Chemical and a number of companies located on the Norco Manufacturing Complex campus while only a handful of small businesses such as motels and retailers applied for the incentives.
In fact, the parish has the ability to move the eight enterprise zones within the parish to anywhere they see fit. Currently, the zones on the East Bank are mostly situated around areas of River Road including a zone extending from Palimino Drive in St. Rose down River Road to Almedia Drive, a zone encompassing parts of Destrehan and St. Rose that is bordered by I-310 to the east and north, River Road to the south and Saint Rose Avenue to the west and another zone extending from Good Hope St. in Norco in the west to Vans Lane in Destrehan on the east.
On the West Bank, one zone extends from Highway 3142 in Hahnville to Killona and the St. John/St. Charles Parish line and another zone encompasses parts of Luling bordered by I-310 in the west and Paul Maillard road to the east. Located just to the south is a zone that includes areas south of Hackberry Street in Luling and to La 361, and the last zone comprises a large portion of Bayou Gauche from Bayou Gauche Road in the east to Highway 90 in the northwest and Down the Bayou Road in the south.
Faucheux said because many of these zones are residential the parish will make a proposal to move them to more industrial and commercial areas as more jobs are likely to be created by businesses already in those areas.
“The state statute allows us to move the zone to where we think it will be best be used,” he said. “What we want to do is move that area to an area that has a large number of businesses which will increase our employment opportunities for our local businesses.”
One such change Faucheux has proposed is moving one of the West Bank zones from the west side of Paul Maillard Road in Luling that is mostly residential to the east side of the road so that the Monsanto facility would be included in the zone.
To be able to participate, businesses must first begin a project and then fill out an application and go in front of the Board of Commerce and Industry for approval. However, the enterprise zone program is not open to some workplaces, such as those involved in gaming, churches and retail businesses with 100 or more employees nationwide, with an exception for grocery stores and pharmacies.
For grocery stores and pharmacies to be included they must submit a project aimed at increasing their workforce to Louisiana Department of Economic Development that includes the addition of at least five permanent full-time jobs within 24 months of the project start date or by adding 10 percent to their nationwide workforce within 12 months.
To be eligible for the job incentive program, it is mandated that 50 percent of new hires meet at least on requirement including being current St. Chares Parish residents, living within an enterprise zone if their employer is not located in a zone, receiving public assistance, lacking basic academic skills or be unemployable by traditional standards.