Why Florida?

The Florida Enterprise Zone Program offers an assortment of tax incentives to businesses that choose to create employment within an enterprise zone, which is a specific geographic area targeted for economic revitalization. Tax incentives include a sales and use tax credit, tax refund for business machinery and equipment used in an enterprise zone, sales tax refund for building materials used in an Enterprise Zone, and a sales tax exemption for electrical energy used in an enterprise zone. Local governments can provide additional incentives for a zone located within their boundaries.

The Florida Department of Revenue is responsible for processing all enterprise zone tax incentive applications. The local coordinator is responsible for verifying enterprise zone addresses. All tax incentive applications must be certified at a local office before the applications are sent to the Department of Revenue to be processed. The Florida Department of Revenue is responsible for processing all enterprise zone tax incentive applications. Representatives from the Department of Revenue provide technical assistance on the eligibility requirements to businesses and to local enterprise zone coordinators.

History

Florida established one of the first Enterprise Zone programs in the country in 1982.  In 1994, the program changed significantly when the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Enterprise Zone act of 1994.  The 1994 act was based primarily on the federal government’s Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities programs.  At this time all existing zones were repealed and a new application and designation process were established.

The application process required the local government to establish a strategic plan, form a local Enterprise Zone Development Agency, and a submit a specific map showing the zone’s boundaries.  The applications were submitted during the summer of 1995 and 19 zones were designated on July 1, 1995.

Subsequently, the Florida Legislature amended Florida Statutes to allow for boundary changes, incentive changes, and the addition of 36 enterprise zone designations.  The 1994 act established a repeal date of December 31, 2005. In 2005, the Florida Legislature extended the Enterprise Zone program for ten years and provided existing enterprise zones an opportunity to have their zones re-designated with boundary amendments.

Administration

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) administers the Florida Enterprise Zone Program. DEO is responsible for overseeing the activities of the local enterprise zones and providing them with technical assistance and information. DEO has been authorized by the Florida Legislature to review and approve eligible enterprise zone application packages. DEO receives progress reports from local enterprise zones as well as reports from the Florida Department of Revenue and prepares an Annual Report to the Governor and the Florida Legislature.

Enterprise Florida plays an important role in marketing the Enterprise Zone program to existing businesses within a zone or to those who are looking to locate in a zone.  Enterprise Florida has also taken active roles in proposing Legislation that will improve the program and enhance the economy of Florida as a whole.  Enterprise Florida works with DEO in developing zone approval guidelines and determining which communities would qualify for a zone designation.

At the local level an enterprise zone is governed by an Enterprise Zone Development Agency.  This agency oversees the implementation of the strategic plan and makes important decisions concerning the zone.  The Enterprise Zone Development Agency also appoints a local enterprise zone coordinator that maintains the day-to-day operations of the zone.  This key contact for the zone answers questions and distributes materials to businesses, DEO, and the local government.  The local coordinator is responsible for verifying enterprise zone addresses.  All tax incentive applications must be certified at a local office before the applications are sent to the Department of Revenue to be processed.

The Florida Department of Revenue is responsible for processing all enterprise zone tax incentive applications.  Representatives from the Department of Revenue provide technical assistance on the eligibility requirements to businesses and to local enterprise zone coordinators.

Urban and Rural Designations

Because of the diversity in the population and economy throughout the state of Florida, the Enterprise Zone program is designed to accommodate both rural and urban areas.  Because rural areas do not attract and retain the same types of businesses that urban areas do, rural Enterprise Zones are given different tax credits through the various incentives.

Listed below are the ways that an Enterprise Zone gets a rural classification:

    • Nominating county has a population of 75,000 or less
    • Nominating county has a population of 100,000 or less and is contiguous to a county with a population of 75,000 or less
    • Nominating municipality is located in a county with a population of 75,000 or less
    • Nominating municipality is located in a county with a population of 100,000 or less and is contiguous to a county with a population of 75,000 or less
    • Federal Enterprise Communities and Empowerment Zones

The Enterprise Zone program operates at both the state and federal levels.  Almost every state has some form of an Enterprise Zone program, however, each have their own agendas and incentives to offer.  The federal government also has its own form of the program.  The federal government has designated a total of 172 Enterprise Communities and Empowerment zones across the US.  These designations are based on criteria including population, poverty rates, and economic distress.  This programs provides funding to the Community or Zone for a 10 year period.  These funds are used for economic revitalization throughout the communities.

Although these communities are designated by the federal government they are also recognized in the Florida Enterprise Zone program.  They receive their funding through the federal government as well as offer the state incentives to the businesses within the communities.