SNOW HILL – County officials gave their support to the Town of Berlin as it seeks a re-designation of its enterprise zone.
On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners approved a resolution in support of the 10-year re-designation of Berlin’s enterprise zone by the state. The designation enables the town to offer tax credits to businesses.
“I am in support of doing this since the enterprise zone designation presents certain business opportunities for folks locating their business within these zones,” said Merry Mears, the county’s director of economic development.
There are currently three enterprise zones in Worcester County — one in Snow Hill, one in Pocomoke and one in Berlin. While the designations in the south end of the county are up to date, Berlin’s designation is up for renewal.
Mears said businesses in a town’s enterprise zone were eligible for certain income tax credits as well as property tax credits.
Berlin resident Linda Reiner voiced concern about the programs.
“I’m all for economic growth and helping people start businesses,” she said. “However I am against giving the entitlements.”
She asked who was going to pay for the taxes that were deferred through the program. She also questioned how many of the businesses receiving credits were incorporated in Maryland.
“If you give people free property tax for 10 years, what about the existing businesses?” she said. “What are you going to do for them?”
Mears explained that the enterprise zone program was administered through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. She said there was a special fund set aside just to encourage business development and employment.
“I consider us to be fortunate to have three designated areas for this type of investment,” Mears said. “This is not a county investment. This is a state investment. The money is sitting there waiting to be accessed.”
Ivy Wells, Berlin’s economic development director, said none of the town’s businesses had applied for the credit recently but that she wanted future businesses to have the option.
“What I use enterprise zone tax credits for is to encourage new businesses to open in Berlin,” she said.
She pointed out that there were a number of properties within the town’s enterprise zone that were set to be redeveloped.
Wells added, in response to Reiner’s concerns, that there were conditions associated with the credits and businesses from other states wouldn’t be eligible.
“There’s a wide variety of stipulations a company has to meet and they are extremely strict,” she said. “So you can’t have a company in Delaware apply for these tax credits.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to pass a resolution in support of Berlin’s enterprise zone application.