Push to hire disadvantaged workers

March 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The mayor of San Francisco wants to give tax breaks to more companies doing business in the city, to encourage them to hire disadvantaged workers. His proposal would broaden an existing city program and bring it in line with what the state already offers.

Dante Serafini owns five Italian restaurants including the Stinking Rose and Calzone's in North Beach. For several years he's been participating in the state's Enterprise Zone Program.

It gives income tax credits and other benefits to businesses in targeted areas that hire public assistance recipients, disabled individuals, veterans, ex-offenders or other disadvantaged workers.

"Anytime we can get an incentive that helps our bottom line and helps our business exist and make money and at the same time benefits people, it's a win-win. We're delighted with that," said owner Serafini.

San Francisco also has its own Enterprise Zone Program. It provides a payroll tax credit for companies, but it's not consistent with the state law, either on criteria or the border of those zones.

"In North Beach for instance, the dividing line was in the middle of Columbus Avenue. So the west side of the street was covered and the east side was not," said Marsha Garland, from the North Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Now there's a proposal to make local and state enterprise zones compatible.

San Francisco City Treasurer Jose Cisneros thinks that will simplify the application process.

"When they figure out what's eligible for one, they know they'll be eligible for the other, which makes it easy for every business to take advantage of it," said Cisneros.

Few San Francisco businesses even know about the city or state enterprise zones.

"This is amazing. Only ten businesses have taken advantage of the existing local enterprise tax credits," said Mayor Newsom.

There will now be a push to get the word out and get the proposal to expand the zones approved, by the Board of Supervisors.