Supporters of Enterprise Zones Say Jobs Will Suffer
INDIO - A program aimed at helping spur job creation in economically challenged areas has ended and it has supporters of the program worried business will be sent out of the valley. Aaron’s Sales & Lease is just one of the many businesses who take advantage of the tax incentives offered by the Coachella Valley Enterprise Program. They started out with one store in the valley and now have four across the entire Coachella Valley. Owner of Aaron's Arthur D'Souza says the enterprise zone tax incentives not only benefited him but his employees as well. “People stay with us because we've been able to pay them well. What we got from benefits from the enterprise program we gave back to our employees. Five years ago we were able to create a medical program and give them medical benefits,” says D’Souza.
The Coachella Valley Enterprise Zone (CVEZA) is one of 40 zones across the state created to boost small business. "Businesses get tax credits and incentives to invest in capital and create jobs,” says Manager of CVEZA Mark Weber. He says the goal is to create jobs in areas with higher poverty. "The areas in the eastern Coachella Valley have higher unemployment so this program is a perfect fit for trying to help those areas,” says Weber.
Governor Brown has been trying to eliminate the program since he got in office calling it wasteful and inefficient and instead trying to pass AB 93, his version of an enterprise bill. It was passed last week with a 2/3 vote from the Assembly and Senate. "The governor used some tactics that I would say are pretty morally suspect in forcing legislators to give him the vote even if it didn't make sense for their local communities,” says Weber. One of those legislators is Assemblyman Manuel Perez whose district covers the area in the enterprise zone which includes, among other cities, Mecca, Thermal, Coachella and Indio.
Just two years ago he was at a manufacturers gathering in Coachella praising the enterprise program. He voted for AB 93. "Only one percent of the vouchers we've given out would qualify under the governors new program so this new legislation effectively eliminates the program,” says Weber. Something D'Souza says will hurt the unemployed more than anyone else. "When you can give employees good benefits, give employees a lot of support, it’s good and you know, the enterprise credits definitely had its magic to do with that,” says D’Souza. Businesses under the current enterprise program have until the end of the year to claim their tax credits. The new legislation will go into affect January 1st.