Enterprise-zone news big news for Waynesboro

Story by Chris Graham
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Don’t underestimate the value of this bit of news. Megan Williamson certainly isn’t.
“I have to stress that this is big news. I agree with that completely. We were very excited,” the Waynesboro economic-development director said in an interview for today’s “Augusta Free Press Show,” talking about the announcement on Friday that the city had been tapped to receive designation as a Virginia Enterprise Zone.

The designation opens up the provision of cash incentives for job creation and real property investments in Waynesboro – with projects in the enterprise zones in Waynesboro in the downtown business district, Basic City, the East Main corridor connecting the downtown and Basic City to the Shenandoah National Park, and the city industrial park eligible for construction grants of up to 20 percent of associated hard construction costs up to a $250,000 cap and job-creation grants of up to $800 per job created for a five-year period.

“Waynesboro as a city really doesn’t receive any direct incentives as an enterprise-zone designee. Rather, what happens is that the zone has been defined within the city, and businesses, investors and property owners within that zone are now eligible to apply for state economic-development incentive grants that help them come to Waynesboro to invest in our targeted areas and to hopefully help improve the local economy,” Williamson said.

Waynesboro had already had an enterprise-zone program in place dating back to 1998 that expired on Dec. 31. Projects initiated and completed under that program included the renovation of the Waynesboro Heritage Museum, the relocation of the Shenandoah Valley Art Center, the opening of Stone Soup Books and Cafe, and the expansion of McClung Companies.

The new designation will remain in effect through 2017.

“We went into this application process not knowing whether we would be successful or not. We knew ahead of time that four designations were available this year – but we didn’t know who else would be applying, we didn’t know what communities we would be up against in that application process. And so receiving that designation is definitely exciting news,” Williamson said.

“From the economic-development office standpoint, we’re involved in the day-to-day marketing of this. Every time we have a prospect come in and think about locating, whether it’s downtown or in the city’s industrial park, here’s a program that we’re able to bring to the table and show them how to best finance and incentivize their project,” Williamson said.

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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