The City of Winchester, Virginia offers an extensive array of incentive programs to support growing businesses that strengthen the local economy and create jobs. Available programs include loans, grants, exemptions, and reimbursements, each created to support specific objectives. Some programs are available throughout the city, while others are limited to Winchester’s Enterprise Zone.
What is the Enterprise Zone Program (EZ)? The Virginia Enterprise Zone (VEZ) program is a partnership between state and local governments that encourages job creation and private investment. The Commonwealth of Virginia authorized the creation of these local incentives and tools for property developers and business owners to encourage real estate development, business expansion, and job growth in targeted areas of the City. In 2013, the Commonwealth of Virginia designated the City of Winchester as an Enterprise Zone Community, acknowledging the strong connection between successful business growth and positive community development.
We are amending our current Enterprise Zone (EZ) boundaries. The City’s Economic Development staff is taking recommendations for possible property additions to the program and which properties to delete from the program. Click here to review a map of the existing zone boundaries and the proposed additions and deletions.
A public hearing will be held on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 regarding the application to amend the EZ local boundaries. The meeting will be held during the regular City Council Meeting in the Rouss City Hall Council Chambers (15 N Cameron Street) at 6 pm. You are welcome to provide your feedback in-person at this meeting.
Questions on the Enterprise Zone Program may be directed to the Economic Development Department at 540-667-2330. This office is open Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm.
Do you have any feedback you would like to share with us before the public hearing? Please submit it here!
For a detailed guide on the incentives available, please see our EZ Booklet. To see if your business is within the Enterprise Zone, search for your address using our GIS map. Check out our How to Apply Checklist to see how you can apply for one of our incentives. Please contact us to learn more about specific programs and eligibility requirements.
Click on the incentive programs below for more information.
Professional Job Creation Grant
The purpose of the Professional Job Creation Grant is to provide an incentive to businesses that are creating full-time, professional jobs within the Enterprise Zone. One-time cash grants will be awarded to businesses that have created qualifying jobs that have been in existence for at least twelve months. The jobs eligible for the grant must have been created no more than two years from the date of the application submittal.
Exterior Improvement Grant
This incentive provides a matching grant to eligible property owners who complete qualifying exterior improvement projects to their building.
Provides funding (up to $1,700) for half the cost of website design and construction or up to $1,000, (paid to a city-based design provider), half the cost (up to $500) of website hosting or high-speed internet access, and a 200-basis point interest rate reduction on a Winchester Enterprise Zone Micro-Loan.
Commercial/Industrial/Mixed-Use Property Rehabilitation Grant
The Economic Development Authority of the City of Winchester will provide a cash grant for qualifying rehabilitated real estate within the designated Enterprise Zone. The grant will be based on the post-rehabilitation assessed value for properties that qualify.
Commercial Façade Loan (Within Enterprise Zone)
Low-interest loans of up to $35,000 are available for businesses and property owners that wish to make exterior improvements such as signage, masonry repair, painting, awnings, window repair/decals, and landscape costs.
Micro-Loan (Within Enterprise Zone)
Loans at 7% for $1,000 to $10,000 are available to help new or existing businesses fund working capital, minor leasehold improvements, and small equipment and furniture needs.
Revolving Loan (City-Wide)
The purpose is to provide below-market-rate gap financing to stimulate the growth of new and existing small-to-medium sized businesses in the City of Winchester. The RLF provides below-market-rate gap financing to qualifying businesses based on determination of need, where the applicant is unable to finance fully the proposed project with equity, bank financing and other private and public financing.
Below-market gap financing for small-to-medium sized businesses that are unable to fully finance their proposed projects with equity and other public and private financing sources.
Below-market gap financing for small-to-medium sized mixed-use or non-residential real estate projects where vacant or underutilized property will be put to productive use and that cannot be fully financed with equity and other public and private financing sources. May be used for land costs that include acquisition and site preparation, building costs, soft costs associated with development, and bridge financing where other sources of capital are expected to flow into the project at a later date.
Major Economic Development Project
A grant equal to the present value of 100% of net new taxes paid by a company over three years, paid annually in arrears or as an upfront incentive secured by a forgivable deed of trust, requiring a capital investment of at least $2.5 million and the creation of at least 25 new jobs paying at least the City’s median income.
Major Mixed-Use Development Incentive
Provides part or complete public infrastructure financing (based upon limits) for a mixed–use development with private investment of at least $5 million.
Substantially Rehabilitated Commercial/Industrial/ Property Tax Exemption
Provides a tax exemption for a period of ten years for improvements of at least 40% to substantially rehabilitated real estate within the Enterprise Zone.
Exemption from Land Development Fees
Expedited development and building permit review. Refund of building permit fees, zoning application fees and subdivision plat for both non-residential and residential projects.
Business Development Grant for Vacant Properties
Provides a grant to eligible businesses in the amount equal up to a maximum of 100% for new City business tax revenues generated, as determined by the Commissioner of Revenue, based on the incremental increase over a five-year period, paid annually in the arrears. Qualifying taxes include business personal property tax, which is due December 5th of every year, local option sales tax which is due monthly, and food, beverage, and admissions taxes which are due monthly. The grant size will be based on the following criteria:
New or Expanding Technology-Driven Business Grant
Provides a series of grants, in arrears, equal to 50% of net new taxes paid to the City over a 5-year period for high-tech firms making a capital investment of at least $1 million.
The Virginia Enterprise Zone is administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. There are two state incentives available to businesses and /or property owners located in the Winchester Enterprise Zone.
For a list of zones, see the VEZ map
For the online applications, see the VEZ submission system.
VEZ State Incentives are available to businesses and zone investors who create jobs and invest in real property within the boundaries of enterprise zones.
Job Creation Grant
Qualification for the Job Creation Grant (JCG) is based on permanent full-time job creation over a four-job threshold, wage rates of at least 175 percent of the Federal minimum wage (150 percent in HUAs*), and the availability of health benefits. Personal service, retail, food, and beverage positions are not eligible to receive job creation grants. **As of 2010, firms located in High Unemployment Areas (HUAs) may qualify for the JCG at the reduced wage rate threshold of $10.88 (150 percent of the Federal minimum wage). A list of HUAs is provided below in the Helpful Links section of this page.
Real Property Investment Grant
Eligibility for the Real Property Investment Grant (RPIG)is based on qualified investments made to commercial, industrial, and mixed-use buildings or facilities located within the boundaries of an enterprise zone. To be eligible for the RPIG, an individual or entity must invest at least $100,000 for rehabilitation or expansion projects and at least $500,000 for new construction projects.
Through the federal and state rehabilitation tax credit programs, property owners are given substantial incentives for private investment in preservation, resulting in enormous advantages to the public.
State tax credits are available for owner-occupied, as well as income-producing buildings. If your property is income-producing, you may also be able to take advantage of federal tax credits. Additional information and assistance with tax-credit projects may be requested from DHR’s Richmond office.
The Technology Zone is comprised of 125 acres in downtown Winchester where specific businesses benefit from tax advantages and an environment where they can grow.
Existing companies within the boundaries of the technology zone which qualify under any of the criteria set forth below may be qualified as a technology company. A company meeting the criteria which move into the technology zone may also qualify.
In no case shall the use of computers or telecommunication services by a business in its internal operations qualify the business as a technology business.