In the Zone



Mmm, numbers

Local business owners and accountants gathered this morning at Eureka's Wharfinger building to have their nerd-wired, number-thirsty skulls ladled full of envigorating tax law concepts like "two-factor apportionment formulas" and "cross-jurisdictional vouchering." And you missed it, sucker!

Actually, if you or someone you're fond of owns a business in Eureka, you probably should have been there, because the nugget of sunshiny goodness buried deep within the turbid legalese was this: Vast portions of Eureka lie within a bonafide, state-recognized Enterprize Zone , which means if you're fool hardy enough to run a business in this economic sump, Mr. Taxman will likely cut you some slack.

EZs are designed to boost jobs and business investments in California's economically distressed areas. (Hello, Eureka.) The EZ in our county seat -- one of 42 statewide -- was established back in 1986 and renewed/rejiggered three years ago. Small business owners operating within the EZ could* qualify for breaks on stuff like the employees they hire, the sales/use taxes they pay and the business-related purchases they make. Plus, banks that lend them money may be able to deduct the interest.

*It''s all subject to enough hoops and hurdles to sprain the brains of the untrained.

The 2009 Enterprise Zone Workshop (the official name of this morning's gig) was sponsored by North Valley Bank, which provided coffee, snacks and plenty of glossy adverts. Jargon-master Lila Fedler, an education and outreach specialist with the state's Franchise Tax Board , dutifully facilitated the event -- walking people through the basics, which several local business owners clearly appreciated.

John "Hawk" Martin, owner of Humboats Kayak Adventures, said his business typically operates on credit, which has been hard to come by of late, so he was intrigued by the tax incentives available to lenders. "We're a small business," Martin said. "A little help could allow us to hire more people."

Antich Automotive owner Mike Connerly agred that local business owners need all the help they can get. In his 32 years in business, Connerly has never taken advantage of the available EZ tax credits, but the current economic malaise motivated him to learn more, he said. "To be quite honest, it's been a struggle just to stay in business," Connerly said.

Eureka Redevelopment Agency Program Manager Marie Liscom invited Eureka business owners to call her with questions at 441-4215. You should probably have a pen and paper handy. You can also take a business assessment survey here to "help guide public policy and decision making," according to City Manager David Tyson.


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