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Right On: Millions in tax incentives available for downtown Alexandria businesses The Town Talk

Businesses in downtown Alexandria can qualify for millions in federal tax incentives now that a new tract of the city has been added to the Central Louisiana Business Renewal program.

"We made the application to (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to include downtown Alexandria about a year and a half ago, but we just got approval last month," said Tara Trichel, chief executive officer for the Northeast Louisiana Economic Alliance.

Officials announced the approval of the application Tuesday during a luncheon hosted by the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce.

Deductions include: annual credits of as much as $1,500 per employee for those living in a designated renewal area; as much as $5,000 per new hire and $2,400 per employee for those qualifying under the government's work opportunity program.

As much as $10 million could be deducted for those who are willing to renovate a building downtown for their business. The credits are retroactive to 2002, Trichel said.

The Louisiana Renewal Community is a federal program that provides tax incentives and credits for developing tracts that U.S. Census Bureau data show to include high unemployment, deteriorating infrastructure and/or minimum access to business capital.

The government has set aside $42 billion for the program and has identified 40 renewal communities nationwide, including four in Louisiana. In 2005, Louisiana businesses received $48 million in tax relief.

Commercial revitalization deductions, such as those that would be used for renovating downtown businesses, added up to as much as $12 million for individual communities.

Other areas of Alexandria and parts of Cenla already were included in the program, said Heather Urena, executive director for Kisatchie-Delta Regional Planning and Development District Inc. Kisatchie-Delta is a nonprofit planning and development agency serving eight parishes in Cenla.

"Since downtown Alexandria has no residential area, it had no population or poverty and couldn't qualify," Urena said.

Urena said the government decided to "bend the rules a little" so that downtown Alexandria could be included as a renewal area.

The new tract extends from Eighth Street to the Red River and from the area surrounding Rapides Regional Medical Center to the Cottingham Expressway.

Many other businesses in Cenla are eligible for tax incentives under the program, but many are unaware that their business qualifies, said Leslie Lee, Director of Renewal Communities for the Louisiana Governor's Office of Community Programs.

"This means a lot to the area and a lot to downtown Alexandria. There is a lot of money on the table that could be taken advantage of," she said.

A map of areas in Cenla that qualify for the program is available at www.renewalla.com.