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Illinois’ Enterprise Zone Act (IEZA), enacted in 1982, aims to stimulate business and industrial growth and retention in economically depressed areas.  Today, businesses in 97 zones throughout Illinois enjoy Enterprise Zone benefits, including significant tax abatements, credits and incentives.  These benefits help build a thriving business community, and in turn, a stronger local economy. But as you’ve likely heard, in 2012 the State of Illinois amended the IEZA and within the next few years, all Illinois Enterprise Zones will expire. The application process and requirements have changed significantly, and deadlines are fast approaching. Communities throughout Illinois are faced with either expiration or reapplication. Is YOUR community prepared?


          Many zones are set to expire in 2014. Is yours one of them?
          Illinois will designate 97 new Enterprise Zones (the same number currently in effect) over                the next several years.
          The first applications are due to the State of Illinois by December 31, 2014.
          Current Enterprise Zones will be given no preference over new Zones in the selection                      process.
          The state’s application review process takes a year, which means a late application could                leave your area businesses struggling to stay afloat as key tax abatements, credits and                    incentives disappear.


Before local governments can submit an Enterprise Zone application, they must complete a series of preliminary steps, shown below.

   1. Hold at least one public hearing in which designating local governments solicit public opinion          on:

          whether to create the zone;
          what the zone boundaries should be; and
          which local plans, tax incentives, and programs should be established. 

   2. Pass ordinance(s) specifying the proposed Enterprise Zone and including:

          a legal description of the area;
          findings demonstrating that the proposed Zone meets the qualifications of the Enterprise               Zone Act;
          provisions for tax incentives and benefits to be offered in the proposed Zone; and
          designation of the area as an Enterprise Zone subject to State of Illinois approval. 

   3. Execute an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that includes:

          a legal description of the proposed Zone;
          provisions for tax incentives, programs and other benefits;
          the term of the proposed zone;
          provisions for the selection process and duties of an Enterprise Zone Administrator;
          the management structure for operation of the proposed Zone; and
          the proposed method of selecting designated zone organizations and coordinating their                 activities with each designating unit of government.

In addition to this preliminary process, to even be considered for designation, a proposed Enterprise Zone must meet established standards in at least three of ten qualifying criteria shown below.*

          Employment opportunities
          Abandoned coal mine, brownfield, or Federal disaster area
          Large scale business closings
          Vacant structures
          Tax base improvement plan
          Public infrastructure improvement plan
          Career skills programs
          Equalized assessed valuation

*It is important to note that, although an applicant technically must meet just three of the qualifying criteria, we anticipate the process will be competitive enough to require successful applicants to meet significantly more than three criteria.


We know this can all be very overwhelming, especially with deadlines quickly approaching, new rules, and local businesses bracing themselves for the potential loss of crucial tax incentives and benefits. The time to act is now, and our team of professionals is here to walk you through each step, from satisfying the initial requirements to helping you plan for the future of your Enterprise Zone. Fehr Graham offers the following services to assist you in pursuing designation of an Enterprise Zone, whether for the first time or as a re-applicant. Let us make the process a whole lot easier!

          Demographic and economic research
          Public infrastructure inventor and plan
          Tax base improvement plan
          Development plan
          State of Illinois application narrative and documents
          Project management
          Public outreach and public hearings
          Land survey work
          Legal review
          Local incentives and program development
          Local Labor Market Area (LLMA) definition
          Vacant Property Inventory 

Please contact Community Development Specialisty Shelly Griswold for further information on Fehr Graham’s Enterprise Zone services.

Illinois Enterprise Zone Act link

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