Incentives available to tourism businesses

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Qualifying Hillsville businesses will be able to receive certain incentives after town council’s adoption of a “tourism zone” ordinance at the Oct. 28 meeting.
Council members held a public hearing, but the only reaction to the ordinance came from Planning Commission Chairwoman Ann Largin, after her committee reviewed the proposal and made a recommendation on it.

“The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend the approval of the tourism zone ordinance,” she reported to council. “They feel like it will be a plus for the town and all the businesses in it and everyone in the town.”
Town officials embarked on creating the tourism zones as an economic development effort and as part of a strategic tourism plan.
“This tourism plan is going to be a tool…. that will allow us to get state incentives to be able to then provide those incentives to businesses willing to locate within the town corporate limits,” explained Town Manager Travis Jackson at a September meeting.
Without much discussion of the tourism zone particulars, the council members unanimously approved the new ordinance.
“The purpose of the tourism zone ordinance is to promote the cultural heritage of the Town of Hillsville while encouraging economic development within the town’s general commercial, core commercial and industrial districts,” the ordinance says.
An accompanying map shows that the zones cover the busy Interstate 77-U.S. 58 interchange, the intersection around U.S. 221 and Virginia 100, downtown, places on North and South Main Street and areas in between.
The document notes that among the tax incentives that the state allows includes reduction of permit fees, reduction of user fees and reduction of kinds of gross receipts taxes.
The ordinance also enables council to enact special zoning for the district, permit process reform and exemption from certain ordinances, though that does not extend to the erosion and sediment control act or the Virginia stormwater management act, to name two.
Local tax incentives involve grants equal to the machinery and tools, real estate and meals or lodging taxes owed to the town by the qualifying business.
Those wishing to apply will need to have discussions with the town manager and to submit information describing a project prior to making any investments.
If the town manager finds merit in an idea, he will make a recommendation to the council members for their decision.
Kinds of businesses that can qualify include lodging and bed and breakfasts, restaurants, retail and antique stores and health-related firms.
Existing tourism-related businesses must invest $250,000 and create five new jobs over a year in an expansion to qualify, according to the ordinance. New businesses need to spend $500,000 and create at least five new jobs.
After qualifying, the business has to submit a report to the town for each year it receives the three-year incentive package with such information as the number of full-time employees, amount of taxes the business would pay to the town and more.
The tourism incentive packages have limitations. For example, if a business that receives incentives moves out of Hillsville within three years, that business must repay the incentives.