The Troutdale and Fairview City Councils held a joint work session last night to explore the use of Enterprise Zones (EZ) as a potential economic development tool for use in marketing industrial zoned land in the two cities. In Oregon, Enterprise Zones offer qualified businesses exemptions from local property tax liability on new capital investments for a minimum of three years. For more information on Enterprise Zones, see the State of Oregon website.
Last night, the Troutdale City Council voted unanimously to pay approx. $200k to Wells Development for the construction of a public parking lot as part of the "Discovery Block" (aka the Marino Block) project in downtown Troutdale. In return for the $200k, the city will gain title to the parking lot when construction is completed. This is good news. This block has been a festering boil of blight since a fire burned most of the block to smithereens in 2002. Word on the street says construction could begin as soon as August.
The city council also voted to add $18,000 to the budget for a proposed economic development position which would be jointly funded by a group of government agencies: The cities of Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village, Cascade Locks, and Multnomah County. Details for the new position, which will operate out of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce, still need to be worked out regarding terms and conditions, lines of authority, priorities and accountability, etc. No word yet on whether Multnomah County is even interested in providing an estimated $50k for this position. The position won't be established unless all the players pony up some of their government cash.
I have deep reservations about this position. Very deep. For instance, the cities will not have direct authority but only "advisory input". The cities and the county, who will put up the cash, won't be the ones with the direct decision making power. That's crazy and wrong. But I'm only one vote, and the bandwagon for this position was apparently too shiny, too sparkly for the rest of the city council. As they say in the movies, "I've got a bad feeling about this. . ."