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State approves county as a renewable energy zone

Designation will allow tax incentives for certain companies
Crook County is now a Rural Renewable Energy Development Zone (RREDZ) and joins the seven Oregon Counties (Union, Harney, Wasco, Sherman, Malheur, Polk and Linn) that provide tax incentives for renewable energy companies looking to build.
   A resolution passed by the county court on April 2 was sent to the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department and was approved by the state earlier this week.
   Prineville Economic Development Director Jason Carr of Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) was instrumental in the process and mentioned that two companies have already expressed interest in bringing their services to the county.
   A biomass plant, expected to begin construction later this year, will be located north of Prineville and is headed up by Ochoco Power LLC of Bend, a subsidiary of Sylvan Power. The $40 million facility is expected to create 60 to 100 jobs for the county.
   A wind farm to be located in southern Crook County has been proposed by Pacific Windpower and is expected to create 10 to 15 jobs. The $210 million project would include 50 to 70 turbines with an output of 1.5 megawatts each. Construction could begin in late 2008.
   The tax relief offered to these companies is typically a three-year tax break and can go up to five years depending on their investment and the amount of jobs they create, Carr explained.
   "Jobs are attached to all of this," he said. "You have to be creating jobs in order to qualify for the tax breaks."
   However, the incentives are only attached to the cost of building materials and equipment and do not include the cost of land on which they build.
   "We set up the zone for two reasons," Carr said. "We knew that both of these companies could be helped by the zone, as well as a future tool for Crook County to recruit renewable energy companies that would create jobs and add to the tax base."
   With RREDZs, the state only allows the first $100 million to be exempted and once their three- or five-year exemption expires, the companies come back on the tax roll at the fully assessed amount.
   Prineville already has an enterprise zone that has been in place since 2003, but it is only designated for manufacturing and lies mostly within the city limits. To attract renewable energy companies to the region, EDCO decided to designate the entire county as a potential green energy magnet.
   "It just made more sense to create a separate zone and have it encompass the whole county, so they could actually buy tracts of land that are out of the urban areas and have that space and availability of land," Carr said.
   He pointed out the creation of jobs, combined with clean, renewable energy as significant contributions to the county.
   "It's significant in that it provides Crook County with another tool to help attract more jobs and increase the tax base," he said. "With the county payments going away, it'll help replace some of those monies. Really it will help Prineville attract the kind of clean companies that the community would like to see in their back yard."