The Maryland Department of Commerce has approved the designation of a new Enterprise Zone in Kent County. The new zone will encompass more than 1,500 acres in the county, including the Town of Rock Hall. The new Enterprise Zone has a 10-year term, and is a joint effort between state and local governments, providing real property and state income tax credits for businesses that create jobs and make capital investments.
“We are so excited to approve this designation for Kent County and the Town of Rock Hall, which are working hard to bring new opportunities to the area,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. “The designation will help attract new businesses, retain or expand current businesses, and encourage much needed investment in the area.”
In applying for the designation, the county’s goal was to attract well-paying job opportunities, draw new investors, and assist business owners currently along Rock Hall’s Main Street corridor. The county is working to boost economic growth in the area, including recently partnering with Kent Fiber Optic Systems to build a fiber-optic broadband network throughout the county. In addition, Main Street Rock Hall has received its 501(c)3 designation, a Sustainable Community designation from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and more than $100,000 in grants from the agency for façade and streetscape improvements.
“The tax credits offered by the Enterprise Zone designation are a vital instrument in Kent County’s toolbox to expand and attract businesses. When Chestertown received its Enterprise Zone designation in 2016, it helped to attract approximately $40 million in capital investment and added jobs in the community,” said Tom Mason, president, Kent County Commissioners. “We look forward to working with the Town of Rock Hall and Maryland Commerce to continue the revitalization efforts within the business community.”
“The Enterprise Zone designation for Rock Hall is significant to our future economic growth,” said Town of Rock Hall Mayor Dawn Jacobs. “We are actively working on expanding to a year-round destination focusing on the promotion of our heritage and history to participate in the Heritage Tourism industry. The tax advantages of the Rock Hall Enterprise Zone together with the expansion of reasons to come to Rock Hall, provide a basis for the expansion of both services and business investments. The Maryland Department of Commerce and Kent County's Department of Economic and Tourism Development continue to be of vital importance to our combined success. Their support and efforts on our behalf are to be commended and are greatly appreciated.”
Qualified applicants for Enterprise Zones must exhibit certain economic criteria in order to qualify for the program. This includes high unemployment rates, regional low income rates, high poverty or population loss, or property abandonment rates. The Town of Rock Hall and Kent County were eligible to apply based on the poverty rate of the proposed area, which is higher than the national average. The poverty rate of Rock Hall stands at 29.7 percent, while the poverty rate for the designated Kent County zone stands at 15.3 percent, placing it several percentage points above the requirements for eligibility.
Among the benefits of the program, eligible properties located in Enterprise Zones may receive a 10-year real property tax credit against local taxes, and businesses that create new jobs may receive the state income tax credit.
The Maryland Department of Commerce is responsible for approving the State’s Enterprise Zones, while local governments are responsible for their administration. There are currently 36 Enterprise Zones across 19 jurisdictions in Maryland.