County seeks expansion of Enterprise Zone to help attract business

Two public hearings are scheduled in March over an offer by Cascade Locks to expand its Enterprise Zone to attract new businesses and industries.

“We have a regional economy in the Gorge and what benefits our community benefits us all,” said Cascade Locks City Administrator Robert Willoughby.

On March 10, the Cascade Locks City Council has invited Hood River County Administrator Dave Meriwether and County Commissioner Carol York to present a map of potential sites for citizen review and comment. A final decision is expected to be made that night and the approved map will be forwarded to the Hood River County Commission on March 17.

The proposed map includes six square miles of properties in Odell, Dee, Parkdale and the City of Hood River. These parcels will be added to about four square miles reserved for use by Cascade Locks. By expanding the zone, Cascade Locks and the county would provide an opportunity for Cardinal Glass Industries, Inc., to open a window manufacturing plant on the lower Hanel Mill property. It would also provide other companies with lowered startup costs from a property tax exemption for three years, and up to five years under special circumstances.

“This will allow economic incentives to be in place for potential business development in the future,” said Meriwether.

Since last year the county has been negotiating with the City of Cascade Locks for inclusion into the zone. After determining that widening the boundaries would not drive away potential businesses from the economically-depressed community, both port and city officials have signed on to the idea. Currently, Cascade Locks has only one qualifying business, Chinook Winds Sailing, in its zone.

The Oregon legislature set up 49 Enterprise Zones for non-urban areas where geography would inhibit economic growth. Three years ago, Cascade Locks applied and was granted one of the zones for a 10-year period, at which time it may re-apply. Firms qualifying for the tax breaks include manufacturers, processors, shippers and other operations that serve business, and some types of headquarters and call centers, as well as hotels, motels and resorts.

Cardinal has submitted a letter of intent to buy a portion of the land owned by the Hanel Development Company. The national firm wants to construct a plant of about 100,000 square feet during the summer and fall months and have it ready for operation by the end of 2003. The plant will pay family wages plus benefits to between 50-75 workers initially — with more hires expected as production increases.

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