The state of California has approved a new enterprise zone that consists of a partnership between the county and city of Los Angeles and the city of Huntington Park that will bring a number of benefits to the communities of Florence-Firestone, the eastern section of Watts, Willowbrook, Wilmington, Walnut Park, Rancho Dominguez, West Rancho Dominquez, West Carson, San Pedro, Harbor City, and Harbor Gateway.

The benefits are available beginning May 1 and continue in force for the next 15 years.

Called Harbor Gateway, it is one of 42 enterprise zones scattered around the state, and officials have been seeking the designation since 2009. In December 2010, the zone was given conditional approval, but it took another year for the final designation to go through. It was one of 14 applications submitted for two designations available. State officials were apparently re-evaluating the program in light of California’s budget woes.

The idea behind the designation is to attract businesses that will bring jobs to these communities, which typically have higher unemployment, lower incomes and continue to lag behind the county and the nation in recovering from the recent recession.

Watts is also served by the Los Angeles Hollywood enterprise zone, which was designated in 2006.

Among the benefits businesses can take advantage of as result of the designation are a hiring tax credit.

A business owner can earn at least $34,440 in state tax credits, if employees hired after May 1 fit into one of 13 categories (i.e. those who are CalWORKS eligible or enrolled in the program; those eligible for Workforce Investment Act job training, dislocated workers, Native Americans, ex-offenders, the disabled, or service-connected disabled veterans of the Vietnam era or those separated from the military within the last 48 months.

Additionally, banks who lend to businesses that are already located in the enterprise zone or which move into it, can get a net interest deduction credit.

Companies can also earn sales tax credits on purchases of $20 million a year of qualified machinery, machinery parts, and office equipment.