A collaborative effort by the City of Harvard, the City of Woodstock, McHenry County and other regional partners has led to the creation of McHenry County’s first-ever enterprise zone.

The Harvard-Woodstock application was awarded one of 49 available open zones by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The award, which was announced by Governor Rauner on August 17, is awaiting certi cation by the Illinois State Legislature.

Enterprise zone status and benefits are expected to commence on January 1, 2016. In the meantime, the collaborative effort continues as officials work to determine administrative roles, procedures and incentive offerings.

Harvard Mayor Jay Nolan credits a year-long cooperative effort by a wide net of government officials and the support of State Senator Pamela Altho for the successful effort. “The City of Harvard and the Harvard Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) began working on this project in 2014, as soon as we learned that the State of Illinois planned to make new zones available,” said Nolan. “We knew that partnering with Woodstock and McHenry County would make for a stronger application all the way around.”

HEDC Executive Director Charlie Eldredge championed the project with local, county and state officials and helped gather all of the necessary resources and expertise. “The result was a comprehensive application that scored highly and demonstrated the real potential of a Harvard-Woodstock zone. Every partner brought some- thing to the table that made the application stronger.”

In Illinois, enterprise zones are used to stimulate economic growth and neighborhood revitalization through private investment. Businesses which choose to expand or locate in an approved enterprise zone are eligible for state and local incentives, regulatory relief and improved governmental services. Incentives may include an exemption on retail occupation tax paid on building materials, an investment credit on qualified property, state sales tax exemptions on the purchase of materials used in manufacturing and an exemption on the state utility tax. The program was created through the Illinois Enterprise Zone Act of 1982.

A business must be certified with the State of Illinois to qualify for exemptions. That process is overseen by the local enterprise zone administrator. There are also requirements for minimum investment and job creation or retention.

A Harvard-Woodstock zone administrator will be appointed and representatives from both cities and McHenry County will participate in an oversight board. Harvard will be represented by City of Harvard Administrator Dave Nelson and Arrowhead Industrial Park developer Mark Stricker. Both are also members of HEDC’s Board of Directors.

The HEDC supported the enterprise zone application from the start, providing manpower and financial resources, according to HEDC Chair Roger Lehmann of The Harvard State Bank. “The Harvard EDC sees enterprise zone status as a way to help Harvard attract new employers who want to capitalize on the benefits that our community has to o er, including a quality workforce, affordable sites and a proactive, business-friendly city government,” he explained. “Enterprise zone incentives can help make those real strengths even more competitive.”

The HEDC plans to host an educational event for local businesses once enterprise zone incentives, processes and eligibility requirements have been finalized. Information on the new zone will also be available on the HEDC website, at www.harvardedc.com.

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