State must finalize accession to zone

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The headquarters of Photo Solutions Inc. in Vernonia. The manufacturing business is seeking extended enterprise zone benefits, South Columbia County Enterprise Zone manager Chuck Daughtry has said.As of Wednesday, Jan. 22, all of the South Columbia County Enterprise Zone cosponsors agreed to resolutions approving the accession of Vernonia to the zone, which would offer property tax benefits to certain businesses situated within almost 302 acres of land in and around the city.

The Columbia County Board of County Commissioners was the last governing body to adopt a resolution approving Vernonia’s entry. It voted unanimously Wednesday morning in favor of bringing Vernonia, the largest city in Columbia County that lacked enterprise zone membership as well as the only city in the county not within the Port of St. Helens district, into the zone.

“This is just one more way that we can help the recovery of the city of Vernonia and the rural area surrounding it,” said County Commissioner Henry Heimuller, who offered the motion to adopt the resolution. “They have, you know, been a pretty much blighted community since the flood of [1996] and then 2007. ... I think that this is just one more way that we can encourage business development over on that side of the hill, which will help us all.”

Vernonia applied for enterprise zone membership late last year, and zone manager Chuck Daughtry, who is also the executive director of the Columbia County Economic Team, requested that the zone’s six cosponsors approve resolutions granting it entry.

“The next step is we take it to Vernonia City Council, they ratify it, and then it goes to Business Oregon for approval,” Daughtry said Wednesday afternoon.

Vernonia Mayor Josette Mitchell could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The city of Vernonia and the zone’s current cosponsors — the cities of Scappoose, St. Helens and Columbia City, the Port of St. Helens, and Columbia County — will have to approve any application for extended zone benefits, or an additional two years of property tax abatement on top of three years under normal zone benefits, before they go into effect.

Daughtry said Photo Solutions Inc., a high-tech manufacturer in Vernonia, is already expressing interest in extended benefits.

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