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Wilmington, San Pedro to Get ‘Enterprise Zone’

Times Staff Writer

Wilmington and eastern San Pedro have been chosen for a program that attempts to create jobs for local residents by providing tax breaks and other incentives to business.

Los Angeles officials said Thursday that the economically depressed area is one of three selected by the state Department of Commerce to become “enterprise zones,” the common term for the state’s Economic and Employment Incentive Area program.

The selection of Wilmington and eastern San Pedro, which had been expected, will encourage developments that create jobs for local people, said Greg Dimmitt, who will manage the newly created enterprise zone for the Los Angeles’ Community Development Department.

Lois Denzin, executive director of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, said her organization hopes the enterprise zone will not only help local companies but serve as a magnet for new ones, especially at Wilmington Industrial Park, a redevelopment project on the southeast side of the community.

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“Everyone is just really jubilant about the prospects of expanding businesses and attracting new businesses,” Denzin said.

Over the years, the number of jobs for people living in or near the zone has dwindled, mainly because shipbuilding companies and canneries have closed or severely trimmed their work forces.

From 1976 to 1984, more than 11,000 jobs in the zone were lost, Dimmitt said. In 1980, 27.2% of the zone’s labor force reported being out of work at some point during the year, he said.

Under the program, which starts immediately and will last 15 years, businesses that meet certain criteria could receive low-interest, federally subsidized loans for expansion. In addition, companies could receive substantial state tax breaks if 50% or more of their workers live within the zone’s boundaries.

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If at least 30% of a company’s workers live within the zone, it could still participate in the program, provided it pays a “community service fee,” Dimmitt said. Any money collected from the fee, which has yet to be established, would go to local public service groups.

Dimmitt said that if a company hires unemployed people who live in the enterprise zone, it could receive a state tax break of as much as $12,000 per employee, spread over several years. Also, a company could purchase up to $20 million in new equipment and pay no state sales tax on the purchase, he said.

The zone comprises all of Wilmington except its residential areas. It also includes a portion of San Pedro east of Gaffey Street and north of 25th Street. San Pedro’s Upland neighborhood and the Los Angeles portion of Terminal Island are also included.

Besides Wilmington, state officials this week also selected areas in Sacramento and Madera to participate in the program. Watts, Pacoima, Central Los Angeles and East Los Angeles were previously designated enterprise zones under the program, which was created by state lawmakers in 1984.


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