Businesses along commercial corridors in Westchester will be given some incentives to create jobs with tax credits that are provided under the expansion of an enterprise zone to the Los Angeles International Airport area.

Los Angeles city officials and local business leaders praised the benefits for businesses during a news conference on the Century Boulevard Corridor Monday, May 24th announcing the approval of the State Enterprise Zone for the airport area.

The zone, which provides tax credits to businesses within 1,078 acres of industrially and commercially zoned property, is the first such area on the Westside. Westchester commercial areas including the Westchester Business Improvement District (BID) along Sepulveda Boulevard, the Century Corridor and Loyola Village are covered under the program administered by the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

“The Westside of Los Angeles is a major economic engine for the City of Los Angeles,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement. “However, for over ten years the Century Boulevard Corridor has faced a 30 to 35 percent vacancy rate and has struggled to keep and attract business.

“This expansion means business owners will have the tools and incentives to create jobs in all Los Angeles communities.”

The LAX area enterprise zone is the second expansion approval for the city in less than two weeks, following one for a section of the San Fernando Valley. The approvals were stalled for nearly a year by various state and city departments, but after recent discussions with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office, the city was able to move the process forward.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl called the expansion a “new day” for the Westchester area, saying that it will give the community an opportunity to have the same tax credits and incentives that other parts of the state have had. He noted that LAX will be undergoing modernization projects over the next ten to 15 years that will beautify the airport, but the Century Corridor, considered the “gateway to Los Angeles,” is also in need of improvements.

“In this area we will have special opportunities to bring businesses in, make it more effective and get everybody excited,” said Rosendahl, pointing to a map of the zone.

“The enterprise zone can be the perfect incentive to bring much needed capital to the area and help get Angelenos back to work.”

Austin Beutner, first deputy mayor and chief executive of economic and business policy, added, “We have the approval to provide tax incentives to businesses to locate and employ people in this district.”

The Century Corridor contains 12.3 million square feet of parking, office, retail and restaurant space and has the largest concentration of hotel rooms in Los Angeles, said Laurie Hughes, executive director of the Gateway to LA Business Improvement District. The area, along with LAX, employs more than 30,000 people and more jobs will come thanks to the enterprise zone, she said.

“The tax breaks and incentives will make our area even more appealing to new businesses and to our current businesses that are considering relocating their workforce,” Hughes said. “We are excited about the positive impacts the expansion will have on commercial businesses in the Century Corridor.”

Among the various benefits to zone businesses are employment tax credits for hiring employees; a 35 percent utility rate reduction over five years; sales and use tax credits for purchasing qualified machinery; and a net interest reduction to loan lenders.

The city will also offer local incentives including a five-year Department of Water and Power electrical rate discount; payment plans for sewer facility hookup and reduced parking rates.

LAX Area Chamber of Commerce President Christina Davis said it was about time that an economic incentive program took effect in the Westchester area, which is a great place to do business. She said the chamber hopes to reach out to local businesses to inform them of the tax credits available.

“I’m very excited and happy that we’re moving in the right direction to make L.A. more competitive to do business,” Davis said.

Edgar Saenz, a former field deputy to Congresswoman Maxine Waters who is running in the 53rd District Assembly race, said the tax credits and deductions will lower business operating costs to help make the airport area more business friendly.

“This enterprise zone is exactly what state and local governments should be doing in our district to stimulate growth, business attraction and jobs,” Saenz said. “Especially welcome is the breadth of the expanded zone; it not only reaches east of LAX into Century Boulevard, but north into Lincoln Boulevard, Manchester Avenue and Sepulveda, thus encompassing hundreds of small businesses, restaurants and retail operations.”

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