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Henry County looks to expanding enterprise zone

ORION, Ill. – Orion village officials and a wind farm company are seeking to add property to the new Henry County enterprise zone.

Enterprise zones offer development incentives, such as waiving sales tax on building materials and up to five years’ abatement on the incremental increase in property taxes, according to Kewanee city manager Gary Bradley.

Kewanee had Henry County’s original enterprise zone, which was expanded to accommodate two wind farms and two ethanol plants.

“We’ve done four expansions of our zone, and this zone is larger and incorporates a lot more communities,” said Bradley.

“It’s not uncommon at all to expand,” he said. “I think they’re pretty open to amending enterprise zone boundaries when it makes sense.”

Bradley said expanding the existing boundaries became necessary because of the short time local entities have to apply. Organizers of the Henry County enterprise zone were turned down in an initial application, then had very little time to submit the required paperwork the second time.

“We didn’t let any cities change their boundaries this last time,” he said.

Bradley said Avangrid Renewables has an office in Galva, Illinois, and is proposing a wind farm of 25 turbines that are are twice the size of the existing turbines in Henry County, producing four megawatts as opposed to two.

“They are two to three times larger in capacity,” said Bradley. “They’ve said it would impact four school districts: Kewanee, Geneseo, Galva and Annawan.”

The four districts would reap the benefits of local property taxes if the wind farm goes through, Bradley said. All 25 turbines would be erected in unincorporated parts of the county.

In Orion, the proposed expansion would include all all of the property now in a tax increment financing district along U.S. 150, an industrial park area near Love Park and a six-acre area within the city limits between Love Park and a housing subdivision.

Bradley said he has not yet received the wind farm’s application to be added to the enterprise zone yet, but he anticipates it within 60 days.

“We knew when we applied for it that there were certain areas we were going to try to expand,” he said.