U. S. Steel Remains Optimistic About Fairless Works Revitalization Plan
In spite of a recent setback, United States Steel Corporation stated today that it remains optimistic that the Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone (KOIZ) economic revitalization plan for the region can eventually go forward. U. S. Steel is seeking the support of the Falls Township Board of Supervisors to designate the company's Fairless industrial park as a KOIZ site, which would attract businesses to the developed infrastructure and deep-water port complex through property tax abatements. At its meeting on May 6, the Board voted not to advertise an ordinance supporting the plan.
At issue is the Board's concern over the impact the KOIZ designation will have on tax revenue to the township. Stephen K. Struebing, President-USS Real Estate, stated that he "disagreed with the Board's view that there would be a loss of revenue to the township.
"This can be a win-win situation for everyone, especially given lower Bucks County's unemployment rate, which currently exceeds 6 percent," he said. "Designating Fairless as a KOIZ site could help revitalize the area's economy, create up to 4,000 jobs, and increase real estate tax and other revenue to the township by approximately $8 million between 2005 and 2025."
The purpose of Pennsylvania's KOIZ program is to attract businesses and jobs into economically deteriorated properties. Identified by national economic development experts as one of the most successful of its kind in the country, the program created 13,613 jobs and retained another 7,962 in Pennsylvania from January 1999 through September 2002. Fairless was named a proposed KOIZ site in December 2002 by Executive Order of then Governor Mark S. Schweiker. The designation is supported by the Rendell administration, whose economic representative emphasized the tremendous opportunity the designation would mean for Lower Bucks and Bucks County, generally.
The KOIZ program, enacted as an expansion to the existing Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program in late 2002, stimulates economic and job growth by offering substantial tax relief to companies located within a defined deteriorated area.
Upon creating the KOIZ program, then Governor Schweiker commented, "Pennsylvania's tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zones have proven to be a powerful job creation and community development tool. With this legislation allowing the expansion of the program, it will continue to serve as one of our most innovative and successful economic development tools for revitalizing distressed properties."
Like the KOZ program, the KOIZ program requires the support of all the relevant local taxing authorities for the business incentives to flow to the site. For the Fairless site, the Pennsbury School District, Bucks County, and Falls Township are the local taxing authorities that must approve the KOIZ designation. The Pennsbury School District, which would have borne the largest burden of the property tax abatement (approximately $1.1 million annually) in comparison to Bucks County ($156,000) and Falls Township ($75,000), voted unanimously on March 20, 2003, to approve the designation of this brownfield site as a KOIZ. Unfortunately, county and township authorities did not join the School District in its support of the KOIZ designation for the Fairless site.
The current KOIZ legislation has a deadline of June 1, 2003, for local taxing authorities to approve the governor's designation. Although time is growing short, Struebing affirmed that the company "remains committed to economic revitalization, including development of a diverse, expanding, and sustainable tax base and associated revenue stream to the Pennsbury School District, Falls Township, and Bucks County."
He added, "We will continue to work closely and in good faith with local and state authorities to find mutually acceptable and beneficial ways to move the KOIZ designation process forward."
SOURCE: United States Steel Corporation
CONTACT: John Armstrong or Mike Dixon, +1-412-433-6870, both of United
Web site: http://www.ussteel.com/
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