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      "Blighted" label doesn't deter Centralia from EEZ

      While Columbia has given up on in it's effort to form an EEZ (enhanced enterprise zone), another Boone County community is going forward, while a Callaway County town is not far behind.

      The zones require areas to be declared blighted, but in turn allow cities to offer tax incentives to businesses that are in the boundaries and create jobs.

      The Columbia City Council voted to disband its EEZ board Monday night after opposition forced the Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) to withdraw its support.

      The State Department of Economic Development approved Centralia's application to form an EEZ on the same day.

      Centralia Mayor Tim Grenke said there was little opposition there and that businesses were waiting for the approval to announce plans to expand or plans to locate in the community. He hopes to make those announcements soon.

      Grenke said the current plan is for the city and the Centralia Regional Economic Development Inc. to focus on marketing the city to potential businesses.

      In Callaway County, Fulton is also considering an EEZ, but an opposition group has already formed. Like in Columbia, some believe the blight designation will hurt property values more so than attracting new businesses would benefit the town.

      Bruce Hackman, who is with the Fulton Area Development Corp., said the group has not pushed the project forward but is spending time now to educate the public on the process. Hackman believes the EEZ is misunderstood and points to more than one hundred other Missouri communities that participate.