The Sparkle of Gresham’s Enterprise Zone Attracts New Diamond Factory

Element Six, a manufacturer of synthetic diamonds, recently announced a new factory in Gresham, Oregon. It will spend $94 million over four years to build its new 60,000 square foot factory and will eventually employ approximately 60 people.

Element Six decided to open up shop in Gresham for several reasons, including a tax break under Oregon's Enterprise Zone Program. Under this program, Element Six may enjoy up to two years of tax breaks from local taxes and up to five years of property tax abatement on improvements and other local incentives. It met the eligibility requirements by being the right type of business—manufacturers are eligible, but so are processors, shippers, other B2Bs, call centers, and headquarters. Retail, construction, and financial businesses are not eligible. It was also necessary that Element Six proposed a new structure rather than a remodel, and that it apply for authorization before starting its construction activities.

To maintain the property tax abatement for three years, Element Six will need to increase full-time, permanent employment in the enterprise zone by the greater of one new job or 10%, cause no concurrent job losses outside the enterprise zone, maintain employment levels for the abatement period, enter into a first-source agreement with local job training providers, and satisfy other Gresham conditions. To enjoy more than three years of tax abatement, it will also need to get special local approval and pay its new employees the average of at least 130% of the county average wage at the time of authorization, and 100% of the current county average wages in the fourth and fifth year of tax abatement.

The City of Gresham has been strongly supportive of Element Six's new investment. This is not surprising, given that Element Six is not the first major enterprise zone investment in Gresham, having been preceded by large employers Boeing and Subaru. Gresham and Oregon have been smart to trade a few years of tax breaks for quality, high wage jobs and millions in future tax dollars for the life of the improvements.