Ayr Nixes KOZ In Business Park – Again
In April 2009, the Ayr Township supervisors said “no” to a request for an extension of the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) for the Fulton County Business Park and last month they did it again. After meeting with Wendy Melius, executive director of the Huntingdon/ Bedford/Fulton Center for Community Action, and Paul Johnston of the Fulton Industrial Development Association (FIDA), the supervisors once again voted not to grant the KOZ for the business park. Their decision, both in 2009 and now, essentially nullifies any decisions made by both the county and the Central Fulton School District to grant the extension. All three taxing bodies must approve the extension in order for it to be granted.
Ayr Supervisor Chairman Marlin “Sonny” Harr, in 2009 and now, has said, “I just don’t think the KOZ actually benefits the people of Ayr Township.” Harr added that the supervisors want to support more business opportunities in the township and will work with any individual business trying to locate there.
KOZ provides an opportunity for companies to develop real estate opportunities through a reduced state and local tax initiative. Since the inception of KOZ in 1999, the program has created new jobs as well as capital investments. Due to their popularity, additional KOZs were added in the state in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2009.
Back in May of this year, Ed Silvetti, executive director of the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission (SAPDC), met with Fulton County commissioners and told them he intends to submit a regional KOZ application to the state by this time next year. As a result, SAPDC officials are working with each of the six counties in the region to help identify possible sites for a region-wide KOZ subzone.
The business park was in the original KOZ that began in 1999 as a 10-year business incentive. In 2009, the FIDA requested that the business park’s KOZ, which was set to expire on December 31, 2010, be extended for an additional seven years to December 31, 2017.
The KOZ program in Pennsylvania began in 1999 and eliminated specific state and local taxes within specific underdeveloped and underutilized areas to assist the areas with economic growth and investment. It was designed to lead to the creation of new jobs and to produce capital investment in real estate. In 2008, then- Governor Rendell signed legislation allowing for the extension of the KOZs. Under that new law, KOZ status on unoccupied parcels on all current zones could have been extended for seven years from the expiration date of the zones, if companies occupied a parcel before December 31, 2015.
At that time the three Ayr supervisors unanimously voted no to the extension. Although Ayr does not levy any property taxes, Harr said, “The KOZ was in place during the prosperous years and didn’t attract any new business to the area, so why would we think that any businesses would take advantage of it in this economy?: He went on to say then that he does not believe that the township taxpayers should be expected to continue to subsidize the business park.