Federal officials will hold workshops in Orange County today and Wednesday to explain to thousands of Santa Ana business owners how they can participate in tax-incentive programs that so far have drawn little interest.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is offering $26 billion in tax incentives, credits and other assistance to businesses in economically depressed neighborhoods in Santa Ana and 47 other cities nationwide. In California, such areas, known as empowerment zones, are in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Fresno and the neighboring towns of Orange Cove and Parlier.
Of 5,200 businesses in Santa Ana's empowerment zone, only 40 have tapped the tax-incentive programs offered by the government starting last year.
The value of the benefits collected so far totals $1.3 million, said Melissa Alva, an economic development specialist for Santa Ana.
HUD Assistant Secretary Roy Bernardi, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel A. Pulido, tax experts and local business owners will participate in the free conferences.
"The success of this [program] depends on getting the word out," said Don Mains, HUD's deputy assistant secretary.
The Santa Ana zone, made up of four parcels in the city's central and eastern portions, was created because of its 9.7% unemployment rate and annual household median income of $34,000.
Among the incentives available to businesses within the Santa Ana empowerment zone:
* A $3,000 wage credit for each zone resident hired. One Santa Ana firm, the Gold Coast Baking Co., hired 60 local employees and receives an annual $180,000 credit, Mains said.
* Tax deductions for equipment acquisition.
* Capital gains benefits that reduce the tax by 60%.
* Loans funded by HUD-backed, state or local government bonds.
The conference is primarily intended for accountants, Mains said, because they can best steer their clients through what can be a complicated process.
Today's conference begins at 8 a.m. at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Wednesday's session will begin at 8:15 a.m. at the Delhi Community Center in Santa Ana.
Information: (800) 998-9999.