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Tax credits, exemptions help Queens create jobs

The state’s Empire Zone program helped to create more than $77 million in capital investments within three southeast Queens neighborhoods over the last 20 years and is expected to give those selected areas a bigger boost in the near future, city administrators said Tuesday.

Jared Walkowitz and Nino DePaola, who work for the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Industrial and Manufacturing Business, gave an update Tuesday at the Queens Borough Cabinet meeting on how the zones in Jamaica and the Rockaways have been faring recently.

The state certified 125 Queens companies in 2007 and gave out $19.9 million in tax credits, according to statistics.

The state−run program gives selected commercial companies within certified Empire Zone areas tax credits and exemptions if they set up businesses that give neighborhood residents jobs and create capital investment.

After a zone is certified by the state, eligible firms must go before a local Empire Zone coordinator and board to demonstrate that their operation will benefit the employees and residents within the zone, according to DePaola.

“We are giving great benefits,” said DePaola, the senior policy adviser for the Office of Industrial and Manufacturing Business. “That’s incredibly important, especially in a down economy.”

In 2007, nearly 115 new jobs were created in the South Jamaica zone, which covers the downtown commercial area and the industrial businesses near John F. Kennedy International Airport , and 12 jobs were created in the Rockaway zone, the statistics showed.

The certified businesses put $24 million in capital investments in Jamaica in 2007, such as new offices and upscale retail, and $53.1 million in the Rockaways, including improvements to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, according to Walkowitz.

Although the city representatives did not have data on the businesses’ performances for 2008, they noted that seven firms were newly certified last year within the Jamaica zone. The city projects that those new businesses will add 90 jobs over the next five years and $2.7 million in capital improvements in Jamaica.

“We want to encourage businesses to increase employment and invest in the area,” DePaola said.

The program accepts firms that have main offices outside of the area, but have offices or industrial sites within the zone.

“For example, if you have a business that is not located in Jamaica, but opens up something near JFK, they can be eligible,” Walkowitz said.

Administrators within state Taxation and Finance Department have designated 96 Empire Zones throughout the state since 1987. The Jamaica zone was one of the first areas to be selected and the Rockaway zone was designated in 1994, according to the state.

Borough President Helen Marshall said she has been impressed with the success of the program and asked the city administrators to explore the possibility of designating new zones in other parts of the borough. She suggested that they talk to commercial leaders in northern Queens.

“The businesses along Corona Avenue are beginning to upgrade. They could really use some help with this,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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