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Beloit wants new opportunity zone

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Gazette staff
May 25, 2011
— A bill designating Beloit as a Development Opportunity Zone could reach the Senate floor by June.

The Senate Committee on Economic Development had a public hearing Monday on the bills that would earmark $5 million in tax credits to businesses that locate in the zone in the next five years. Eligible activities include job creation, environmental remediation and capital investment.


Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, authored the bill that is co-authored by Reps. Joe Knilans, R-Janesville, and Evan Wynn, R-Whitewater. Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, is the Senate co-sponsor.


"The Development Opportunity Zone is an excellent example of how government can help the private sector expand businesses, attract new industry and create jobs," Cullen said in his testimony.


Cullen said Beloit's first Development Opportunity Zone was established in 2001 after Beloit Corp. closed. Now expired, it encompassed the Gateway Development on the city's far east side.


Beth Jacobsen, assistant to Beloit City Manager Larry Arft, said there are 626 jobs in the Gateway, 323 of which are directly attributed to DOZ tax credits.


The assessed value of the district increased from a base of $1.7 million to $140 million, she said.


There are currently two Development Opportunity Zones in the state, one in Janesville and one in Kenosha.


The Janesville DOZ attracted three companies to create or retain at least 210 full-time jobs, said Dave Riemer, chairman of the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce and owner of Ace Hardware stores in Beloit and Janesville.


"As a person who operates businesses in Beloit, I can personally attest to the need for the passage of Assembly Bill 13," Riemer said. "Despite the success of the Beloit Development Opportunity Zone in the Gateway Business Park, Beloit still struggles with a sluggish economy. And although Beloit's unemployment is no longer ranked highest in the state, its current rate of 13.8 percent ranks it as the second highest in the state."


James Otterstein, Rock County economic development manager, said DOZ tax credits are an effective tool because they are based on performance.


"No investment: no credits," Otterstein said. "No jobs: no credits."


Otterstein said the closing of the General Motors plant in 2008 was analogous to the closing of Beloit Corp.


"Not only does Beloit need this tool, but Rock County needs it to continue to revitalize and re-energize its economy," he said.


Loudenbeck said the bill has been praised for its bipartisan support and could pass the committee and head to the Senate floor in June.



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