News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Marion County revives tax incentives for rural industry

Marion County has extended a recently-expired tax incentive program that allows rural industrial businesses to delay paying property taxes on facility improvements that create jobs.

During the March 6 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, the Rural Industrial Property Tax Exemption Program was extended to 2030 after it expired Jan. 2.

The program was first established under a state law passed in 2016 that allowed counties to offer three-year property tax exemptions for improvements by qualified industrial businesses.

So far Marion County has approved $465,000 in exemptions for four businesses who invested a combined $14.3 million in improvements and created 64 news jobs.

The program is open to applicants in unincorporated areas, or within the city limits or Urban Growth Boundary of a city with fewer than 40,000 residents.

The exemption applies only to taxes on property improvements, which must cost between $1 million and $25 million. Applicants must also agree to increase their workforce by at least 10 percent within the first tax year the exemption is granted.

Because property taxes also fund local service districts like schools and emergency responders, they are asked to support applications as well. Taxing agencies representing at least 75 percent of a property’s total tax rate must consent to an exemption.

Erik Andersson, president of SEDCOR (Strategic Economic Development Corporation), told commissioners March 6 the exemptions have been vital for the county’s top industry: agriculture. He said many ag businesses don’t qualify for Oregon’s Enterprise Zones program and the county’s incentives help these businesses expand and invest locally.

“This exemption is one of the few economic development programs available to agricultural producers here to add value or to increase their productivity,” he said.

One pending request from Donald-based GK Machine would allow a $900,000 exemption for construction of a $25 million, 140,000-square-foot building that would create 25 to 30 jobs. 

Andersson said the incentive program was one of the factors keeping GK Machine in Oregon, as the company is also being courted by economic development officials from Texas. When rural businesses qualify for few tax relief programs, an incentive like Marion County’s can make or break the “increasingly tough” decision to stay local, said Andersson.

Board Chair Commissioner Kevin Cameron said the renewed program was “a great tool,” particularly for agriculture, and he expected “more people [will] take advantage of it over the years.”

Commissioner Colm Willis said a delay in taxation allows businesses to establish revenue streams to support expansion, and ultimately adds a solid tax source when the three years are up.

“It’s kind of one of these win-wins that don’t happen very often,” said Willis.

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