Columbia Empowerment Zone, Inc. Celebrates 10 years of Service

During the month of September, the Columbia Empowerment Zone, Inc. (CEZ) celebrates 10 years of service to the City of Columbia. The Columbia Empowerment Zone Board of Directors, who oversaw the Empowerment Zone Grant, formed a nonprofit economic development corporation is 2008 and named it Columbia Empowerment Zone Inc. (CEZ, Inc.).

CEZ, Inc. is a nonprofit economic development corporation whose mission is to efficiently, effectively and enthusiastically create and support economic development opportunities in the City of Columbia. CEZ, Inc. achieves this mission by ensuring activities create, retain and reinvest wealth in the City of Columbia. The guiding principles and values are: accountability, integrity, inclusion, outcomes and stewardship.

Working closely with City departments and the City administration and other agencies that promote economic development and entrepreneurship CEZ, Inc. is a valuable key to assuring that small businesses have a place to grow and thrive in the City of Columbia.


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Over the past 20 years of service to the City, the CEZ grant and CEZ, Inc., the nonprofit development corporation, have implemented many programs that support job training for City residents and incentivized businesses to start and grow in the City of Columbia.

The following programs were implemented in the City:

- Commercial Loan Fund

- CEZ Business Improvement/Façade Program

- Youth Employment Program (YEO)

- Neighborhood Employment Program (NEO)

- Work Initiative Program (WIP)

- EZ Tax Incentives Program

- Vacant & Abandoned Building Incentive Program

CEZ, Inc. accomplished the following projects:

- The purchase of and recruitment of business to the North Main Plaza phase I, II,

- The recruitment of an onsite full service ATM at North Main Plaza phase II

- The recruitment of 3 national chains to the North Main corridor

- The development of mixed income senior housing on phase III and IV of North Main Plaza

- Over 12 million in economic development contributions to North Main Corridor

- The purchase of vacant building on Lady Street and recruitment of small businesses to downtown area

- The purchase of vacant building on Harden Street and recruitment and success of small business establishing a headquarters office and opening up several locations around the state.

- Received the first 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credit award by a City development corporation

- Secured over 6 million in private equity for mixed income affordable housing development

- Invested 1 million in Low Income Housing construction

- Invested over 2 million is job training initiatives for City of Columbia residents

- Provided forgivable to loans to 14 businesses to purchase vacant building and renovate

- Invested 1 million in the demolition of blight on Busby Street

2006 – Certificate of Appreciation for valuable contributions to the Richard & Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Garden at Maxcy Gregg Park.

2009 – National Development Council First Place Award for Innovative Job Creation

2016 - the Columbia Empowerment Zone, Inc. received a Bronze Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

2016 – Trailblazer of the Year Award from the North Columbia Business Association.

The Columbia Empowerment Zone, Inc. projects and programs reflects the Columbia City Council’s Vision Statement focus areas and goals:

Focus Area #1: Attracting & Retaining Talent

Focus Area #4: Empowering Our Residents

Focus Area #5: Economic Prosperity/ Endless Possibilities

Focus Area #6: Enhancing Columbia’s Neighborhoods

Goal #1: Grow opportunities for entrepreneurship, business development and a skilled workforce to achieve a healthy economy.

Goal #2: Connect the City’s neighborhoods and business districts through cohesive land use, infrastructure development, and transportation planning.

Goal #4: Collaborate and partner with entities within the Midlands region to become the state’s prime destination for residents, visitors and businesses.

For additional information, please contact the Columbia Empowerment Zone, Inc. at 803-917-5525.


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