Star-Banner, 5/22/2009 SILVER SPRINGS SHORES
Within the stark white walls of defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s immaculate Silver Springs Shores plant, Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday held a ceremonial signing of four bills, including one that allows Ocala to apply for an enterprise zone on the city’s west side.
“It will give incentives for people to have more jobs come to Florida,” Crist said before signing House Bill 127, preparing the way for the first ever enterprise zone in Marion County. “In a time like this, what could be more important?”
The bill does not create a zone but rather gives the city the ability to apply for one from the state Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development. The deadline for the application is Dec. 31. If the city is successful in obtaining the designation, it could make a difference in the five square miles that a zone covers.
Having a designation will not remove all of the challenges that still face those who would develop on Ocala ‘s west side, an economically depressed area of the city. But businesses developing in a zone would be eligible for sales tax exemptions, tax credits for structures they build, tax credits for infrastructure and tax credits for people them hire from within that district.
For Rep. Charles “Chuck” Chestnut IV it was a victory he waited two years to celebrate.
Chestnut introduced the bill last year, but it died because of partisan politics, he said. This year Chestnut formed a coalition with Marion County Republican legislators, and the bill passed.
“We had a bipartisan relationship between Rep. Kelly and the Speaker to help us get this done and to convince the Revenue Estimating Committee that it would not be a huge impact on the budget,” Chestnut said. Rep. Kurt Kelly, R- Ocala, and Speaker of the House Larry Cretul, R- Ocala, helped push the economic development bill, which could help with redeveloping Ocala’s west side.
Also on Thurdsay, Crist signed three other bills into law, House Bill 7031, which contains some economic incentives for defense contractors, like Lockheed Martin; Senate Bill 260, which revises requirements for adopting amendments to the capital improvement element of local comprehensive plans; and Senate Bill 485, which fast tracks economic stimulus for small businesses.
According to the Governor’s Office, Crist signed the bills first in Tallahassee before visiting Marion County, St. Augustine and Naples for ceremonial bill signings.