Enterprise zones: A comparison of EZ programs in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin
Credits & Incentives talk with Deloitte
“Credits & Incentives talk with Deloitte,” is a monthly column by Kevin Potter of Deloitte Tax LLP, featured in the 'Journal of Multistate Taxation and Incentives,' a Thomson Reuters publication. The September 2017 edition, co-authored with Linda Bonelli and John Casey, provides an overview of the respective enterprise zone (EZ) programs in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, as well as highlights some of the more notable differences.
When a business is looking to open a facility in the Midwest, there are many factors to consider. Is a skilled workforce available? Does adequate access exist to highways, airports, railroads, or ports? What is the proximity to community colleges and universities for recruiting purposes? Does location of a business and employment in specific geographic areas offer enhanced benefits from a credit and incentive perspective?
In this C&I context, such areas are commonly referred to as EZs, locations where states seek to attract businesses to specific, economically depressed areas in their respective states to improve the local economy. These distressed areas are often designated as "zones" and state EZ programs typically offer tax credits and operating cost deductions to incentivize businesses to invest in those specific geographic areas.
EZs are a relatively new economic development tool in the tax incentive landscape. Connecticut approved one of the first EZ programs in 1981, and a handful of states followed shortly thereafter, including Illinois and Indiana.1
The manner in which Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin aim to attract new business and retain existing businesses within their EZ programs varies considerably. The first step in a comparative analysis of the states' EZ programs is to understand how each state designates an EZ.
The Illinois EZ Program is administered at the state level by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).2 In Illinois, an EZ can be located in either rural or urban locations. As of June 2017, there are 96 EZs in Illinois.3 As older EZs expire, new designations become available as part of a competitive application process. The applicant must be a municipality or county, or a combination thereof. The DCEO reviews and scores the applications pursuant to 10 factors, at least three of which the applicant must meet.
Some of the factors include degree of unemployment, poverty, vacant structures, and whether large-scale businesses have closed in recent years.4 The applications are submitted to a five-member enterprise zone board, which determines which local jurisdictions are awarded new EZ designations.5
Indiana's EZ program specifically targets urban communities and former military bases. Applications for zone designation are received and approved by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation Board, which administers the Indiana Enterprise Zone Program.6
Similar to Illinois, the applicant must meet minimum criteria to be eligible. Indiana's criteria includes: poverty levels, population size, proposed zone size, suitability for development, and the municipality's willingness to provide incentives.7 Once approved, each zone remains in effect for 10 years with the option for two, five-year renewal periods.8
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is a joint public-private enterprise created to promote economic development within Wisconsin, is statutorily responsible for administering the state's EZ program.9 Unlike Illinois and Indiana, Wisconsin's EZ program is an application-based designation awarded to a specific economic development project.10
The WEDC relies on many factors when deciding whether to award an EZ designation, including, but not limited to: whether the project might not occur without EZ incentives, increased employment, contribution to the state's economic growth, and how the project increases geographic diversity of available tax credits throughout the state.11
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2 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. 655/6(A).
3 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. 655/5.3(d).1
4 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. 655/4(f)(1)-(10); Ill. Admin. Code tit. 14, § 520.210(d)(1)-(10).
5 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. 655/5.2.1.
6 Ind. Code § 5-28-15-5(a).
7 Ind. Code § 5-28-15-9(C)(1)-(6)
8 Ind. Code § 5-28-15-10
9 Wis. Stat. § 238.399(3)(a).
10 Wis. Stat. § 238.399(5).