Chester has recently been working towards bringing businesses to make Chester a hub. Much of this recent development has been focused on the water front, which once was a booming industrial area. To encourage the redevelopment of the waterfront the area was made into a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ). This means that businesses brought there would be exempt for the most part from all state and local taxes through 2013. One of the developments that took advantage of this was The Wharf at Rivertown. This did bring businesses into Chester, but the amount of good they have brought to the community is controversial. There are differing opinions about how many jobs were created by the new businesses compared to what they promised. With the tax exemptions from the Keystone Opportunity Zone ending in just about two years there will be a new shift in the impact of this initiative because new tax revenue will be received despite the delay.
Tax incentives are a large part of Chester’s economic revitalization plan. While KOZ focuses on a underdeveloped or distressed area that is farther outside of the main part of Chester, the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act (LERTA) focuses on deteriorating properties in other parts of the city. LERTA allows for businesses to expand or construct new facilities and defer the increase in real estate tax for 10 years. The real estate tax increase will be phased in at a rate of 10% a year.
In addition to these larger scale tax incentives, there are small scale business loans and other programs occurring in Chester. The small business loan program is a loan from $5000-$100000 for businesses creating or retaining employment for low to moderate income persons. The loan has a fixed 3% interest rate and will cover 50% of the project cost. For each $25,000 of the loan one full time job must be created. This is in hopes of establishing small businesses in Chester alongside the larger scale businesses.
Attracting businesses for economic development is only one part of the plan. There are also programs to help existing businesses make their building more appealing to help with the overall image of Chester. There is a Façade Improvement Program for businesses in the downtown business district. This loan (up to $10,000) will be forgiven over three years.
PPL Park is another big business venture in Chester that has a lot of other development predicted to go along with it. “This new development includes over 200 new residential units, over 22,000 square feet of retail space, 335,000 square feet of office space, a 200,000 square foot exhibition center and a 1,350 space parking garage” (CEDA).