E-Zone status, a business magnet for Hood River


News staff writer

April 12, 2006

Hood River County Economic Development Coordinator Bill Fashing is vying for special tax breaks to attract more high-tech companies — and create new family-wage jobs.

He is hopeful the county will be chosen by state officials for one of six new “E-Zones.” The Electronic Commerce Enterprise Zones provide an added incentive for a business to move into an economically-depressed area.

Fashing said if the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department grants his request, qualifying firms will be exempted from property taxes for three years. The tax break on the new building and equipment can be extended for five years if wages exceed 150 percent of the county average.

“We have firms in the region that could benefit from this type of program. We are hopeful that it will serve as a catalyst for growth and expansion that brings more jobs our way,” said Fashing.

He said Hood River County qualifies for an E-zone designation because Cascade Locks has already been named as one of the state’s 49 Enterprise Zones. According to Fashing, the primary beneficiaries of that zone are manufacturing and industrial operations. Most commercial and retail outlets are ineligible for the tax breaks.

However, Fashing said by July 1 the state will have a total of 10 E-zones in place that provide technologically oriented businesses with the same benefits.

Both the City of Cascade Locks and Hood River County have each tried unsuccessfully to become one of the four existing E-zones. However, Fashing believes that “third time’s is a charm” and Gorge communities will gain that advantage now that six more E-zones are being added to the roster.

“This program is a tool to assist in our efforts to attract jobs and investment to the county,” he said.

In 1985, the OECDD set up the Enterprise Zones to encourage companies to move into areas where there was an economic hardship. Cascade Locks qualified in 1999 because it met two key criteria:

* The median household income is 80 percent or less than the state average.

* The unemployment rate is at least 2 percent above the state rate.

The 12 square miles allowed for an Enterprise Zone don’t have to be contiguous. So, in 2003, Cascade Locks incorporated almost all of industrial and commercial properties in the county within its 5.13 square mile zone.

Fashing said that move by Cascade Locks officials enabled Cardinal IG in Odell and Mt. Hood Forest Products in the mid-valley to set up shop more inexpensively. He said Hood River County and its two cities will have to re-apply for an extension of the Enterprise Zone in 2009.

Meanwhile, Fashing looks forward to hearing back from the state within the next 60 days on the E-zone application. He anticipates being able to use that designation in his continual pursuit for new employment opportunities.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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