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County businesses hope to take tax holiday

Changes to Oregon Investment Advantage program's criteria put county companies back into the mix
by: Stover E. Harger III THAT WAY — Kelly Vanek, co-owner of Sport Copter in Scappoose, points to a parcel of land on which the company might expand near their Scappoose Airpark headquarters. Tax abatements through the state incentivize the company’s expansion, she says.

Three county businesses have filed applications with the state's business and economic development department to receive a potential decade's worth of tax abatements, a process made possible due to legislation passed at the end of the 2011 session in June.

Composites Universal Group, Sport Copter and the under-construction plastics recycling facility ORPET are all potential participants in the Oregon Investment Advantage program, a 10-year abatement on state income and excise taxes through Business Oregon.

The program's goal is to incentivize new business development and expand existing manufacturing facilities in rural communities. Businesses in Columbia County were not eligible for the program earlier in 2011, due to the county not meeting the program's criteria for poverty and unemployment.

House Bill 3672 rolled back some of those restrictions and now many county businesses are again eligible for the program.

Passed as the session wound down, the bill's primary purpose was to reform the state's controversial Business Energy Tax Credit, which opposing legislators believed lacked focus. It was partially dismantled in favor of bolstering smaller, less restrictive tax incentive programs such as OIA.

'This [legislation] is something that happened, from my vantage point, out of the blue at the end of the legislative session,' said David Stocker, Columbia County's economic development director.

It was so out of the blue, in fact, that some businesses hadn't heard about the changes yet.

Amy McNally, a spokeswoman for Oregon Aero, said her company was unaware of the legislative revisions.

'If the county is a participant again, it's something [we'd] look at,' she said.

Stocker called the program an economic tool for manufacturing facilities. He is notifying businesses and cities of the county's eligibility.

For companies planning to use the tax abatements, such as Sport Copter at the Scappoose Airpark, the tax breaks represent an opportunity to spend money on new employees and facilities.

Sport Copter, which designs and fabricates two-seat gyroscope helicopters, is looking to expand as a result of a slate of domestic contracts with law enforcement agencies, along with an overseas contract from Asia that is close to being finalized.

'You can't move forward until you have everything in place, though' said Kelly Vanek, co-owner of Sport Copter. The company plans to hire five to six new employees and build a new facility on airport land adjacent to their current office and fabrication facility.

The company has until the end of the year to meet the program's expansion criteria, including hiring additional employees, Vanek said.

Composites Universal is undergoing its own expansion, resulting from the company's creation of the innovative Harbor Wing Technologies, used on what's known as an Autonomous Unmanned Surface vessel.

The work could lead to as many as 300 new jobs for the company, which fabricates low-weight, high-strength devices for the aerospace and nautical industries.

The other two companies are joined by plastics recycling facility ORPET, which recently broke ground on its $10 million recycling facility. The facility is a public-private venture between Portland-based Denton Plastics Inc., Vancouver-based plastic packaging company Quantum Leap and the Oregon Beverage Recycling cooperative.

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For more information on the Oregon Investment Advantage program, visit www.oregon4biz.com