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PORTLAND, OR-The Portland Development Commission’s board of commissioners will vote this week on whether to qualify four businesses for five-year property tax waivers in trade for their planned local expansions. Combined, the four businesses–Kraft Foods Global, YoCream International, Opus Creative Group and United States Bakery–would save $2 million in property taxes exchange for investing $41 million in their operations.

The city’s Enterprise Zone was set up after passage of the Oregon Enterprise Zone Act in 1985. In exchange for locating in or expanding within an enterprise zone, eligible (generally non-retail) business firms receive total exemption from the property taxes normally assessed on new plant and equipment for at least three years and as long as five years. The contracts lay out what the companies will provide in the way of additional jobs and/or capital improvements in exchange for a five-year property tax waiver. To be eligible, a company has to have its existing operation within an Enterprise Zone, which is an area bound by Interstate 84 on the south, the Columbia River on the North, 1-205 on the east and Forest Park on the West.

Kraft Foods plans to increase the capacity of Kraft Foods North America Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookie operations and Ritz cracker operations at facilities within the Enterprise Zone. The company plans to invest $25 million in its property at 100 NE Columbia Blvd. in Northeast Portland, according to a PDC staff report.

Kraft is planning to shed 75 jobs in the metro area during the proposed tax abatement period due to planned employee retirements that it does not plan to backfill, according to a PDC staff report. The report is in favor of the tax relief, saying the investment by Kraft will ultimately save some 260 jobs in the city.

YoCream International, a locally headquartered company that makes, markets and sells frozen dessert, snack and beverage items, plans to invest $12.47 million in its property at 5858 NE 87th Ave. in Northeast Portland. The company is expanding its manufacturing, processing, shipping and storage facilities and making improvements to its back-office systems.

The expansion is needed for YoCream to manufacture a new product that would be sold and distributed nationally by an undisclosed major international company that has selected YoCream as its producer, according to a staff report. The expansion and the new production contract will increase its 50-person company by 25 employees in 2006 and by a total of 40 jobs during the tax abatement period, according to the report.

United States Bakery and Opus Creative Group are each making much smaller qualifying investments. US Bakery, which manufactures, processes and ships bakery goods for grocery, restaurant and institutional customers, plans to invest $1.5 million into its property at 340 NE 11th Ave. in Northeast Portland in order to add new machinery and equipment. It plans to add 16 new jobs to the existing 149 during the abatement period, and is also considering an expansion onto an adjacent property.

Opus Creative Group, which provides website development and Internet hosting, plans to invest $1.6 million to its data center property at 2303 NW 23rd Ave. in Northwest Portland. The company needs to expand the facility, upgrade the power source, and buy new routing and switching equipment and purchase software for a billing and customer management system. In addition, the company intends to invest in the research and development of an electronic commerce and content management platform. The company expects to add 14 employees to an existing staff of 40 over the life of the tax abatement.

The companies all applied for the Enterprise Zone contracts in September and October. The PDC board of commissioners will vote on Wednesday whether to enter into the Enterprise Zone agreements.

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