New boundaries could prompt growth beyond industrial realm

Extending the boundaries of Beaverton’s still-fledgling Enterprise Zone will allow a wider range of companies in previously overlooked areas in and adjacent to the city to expand and take advantage of the program’s tax-abatement expansion incentives, city officials say.

The city’s application to expand its total Enterprise Zone area by 2.93 acres, which the City Council approved on Feb. 19, is aimed at including all eligible industrial- and commercial-zoned land connected to existing E-zone property. Including 0.64 square miles outside Beaverton city limits in Washington County, as well as property adjacent to the Nike world headquarters campus, the proposed expansion would add a 1.87-square-mile segment between Walker and Jenkins roads and a 0.52-square-mile section west of Highway 217 between Hall Boulevard and Denney Road.

Prompted by inquiries from businesses that initial E-zone boundaries excluded, city economic and development officials said they realized expanding the zone could provide growth opportunities for a wider range of companies than was considered during the initial application process in spring 2012.

“Just since July 2012, when we first got our designations, some inquiries from business owners (made us) realize there had been some unmet demand,” said Amy Koski, the city’s economic development project coordinator and Enterprise Zone manager. “That drove the need to look at the study area again.”

Enterprising concept

The state of Oregon approved the city’s first Enterprise Zone application last July. Administered by the state-run Business Oregon, the E-zone allows companies that commit to at least $1 million in investment and new hiring to receive three to five years of property tax abatement. Portland and Hillsboro, cities to the east and west of Beaverton, have utilized the tool for years.

Vernier Software & Technology, the first Beaverton business to apply, is about to begin a $2.8 million expansion at its Southwest Millikan Way headquarters, expected to include a 10 percent increase in its workforce over the next five years.

Because there was some question about the state’s ongoing support of the E-zone program, Koski and other city economic officials had to move fast during the application process last spring, explained Alma Flores, Beaverton’s economic and community development division manager. Industrial-based properties were brought in, inadvertently leaving out some viable commercial, flex-industrial and transit-oriented districts both in and outside city limits.

“We were working pretty quickly to get the boundary in” by the deadline, Flores said of the city’s first E-zone application. “We came up with the simplest E-zone boundary we could put forward (based on) industrial-zoned land eligible under (existing) census tracts. We later realized we probably could have included much more than that” based on the number of E-zone-eligible businesses.

New possibilities

Declining to name specific companies, Flores and Koski acknowledged three companies from in and outside of city limits that have inquired.

“We’re not at liberty to discuss them at this point,” Flores said. “It’s a sensitive dance we have to do. We’re working with the companies. There’s so much (E-zone-related) homework on their end. We wouldn’t want them to be uncomfortable talking to the city about what they’re thinking. When they sign something, that’s a commitment.”

The E-zone boundary proposal includes Nike-owned property, but the two city officials had little to say regarding the company’s announcement in early December that it would launch a major expansion in Oregon after the state provided a 30-year tax-incentive package.

“We’d like to highlight other areas,” Flores said, mentioning Tektronix among the software-industry stalwarts that could potentially benefit from the E-zone. “It’s our reaction to the need Washington County had, for our city to partner with the county, to include properties and provide opportunities for any company that is able to use it — as much as the county allows us to.”

Common ground

Washington County was among the affected tax districts, which also include the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District and the Port of Portland, that require notification from Business Oregon. With Washington County’s consent, the city of Beaverton is responsible for administering any E-zone-related tax abatements for companies that expand there.

Usually because municipalities have the administrative structure to handle such a program, the city-county relationship is fairly common in E-zones throughout the state.

“The easy answer is just to partner with them,” said Flores, who advocated for Beaverton to seek an Enterprise Zone when she first joined the city in 2011. “It would have been nice to have this tool before the recession started. But we have it now, and we’re happy about that.”

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