Enterprise Zones headed for sunset.

Florida Capitol BuildingUnless something drastic happens in the second half of the Florida Legislature's 2015 session, it appears Enterprise Zones in Florida – including Immokalee's – will die a natural death at the end of the year. 

Enterprise Zones offer the most cost-effective program in the Sunshine State for job creation, entrepreneurial encouragement and a ticket out of poverty for small businesses seeking to find a firm financial footing in today’s marketplace. 

In Immokalee alone, its Enterprise Zone has provided over $200,000 in tax incentives and other assistance to nearly 20 businesses over the past decade. 

Revived in 2005, the Enterprise Zone program in Florida is set to sunset at the end of 2015, meaning those tax incentives and other small business support will cease to exist. 

Bills filed to extend the life of the program are languishing in committees in both the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate and at this point in the annual two-month session bills that haven't moved out of committee are likely not to. 

One bill, House Bill 7067, appeared initially to be favored by the House leadership, was given Preferred Committee Bill status (almost a guarantee for passage) but it was withdrawn suddenly March 31. That bill, however, would have eliminated the Enterprise Zone program and replaced it with a somewhat similar program but only at the discretion of each county's government body. 

In addition, the Orlando Sentinel published in March a piece quoting both the Florida Senate President and the Speaker of the Florida House as saying the program would die. 

Florida Tax Watch, a well-respected non-partisan watch-dog organization, issued a report before the 2015 session began supporting the Enteprise Zone program and the Florida Association of Counties has been supportive.  

But unless the tide changes and starts flowing back in greater support for the programs, it appears 2015 will be the last year of Enterprise in Immokalee and the rest of the Sunshine State. 

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