SUNBURY - Businesses throughout Northumberland County can help fight blight while earning a 75 percent state tax credit by participating in the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP).

The program was explained to prospective contributors Friday at The Hotel Edison during an information session coordinated by Edward Christiano, executive director of the Northumberland County Housing Authority, and consultant Christopher Gulotta of the Gulotta Group, Carlisle.

Christiano and Gulotta have worked with Louis D. Colón, central regional director for community affairs and development with the state Department of

Community and Economic Development (DCED), on their efforts to remediate blight, which Colón said doesn't stop with assistance to municipalities.

"We want to help embellish your current plan by offering tax credits to businesses," he said. "We will tackle it together.

"The key for businesses is getting a return on their investment, and I think this program will be well received," Colón said.

$250,000 sought

NAP, established in 1967, provides for a state tax credit to companies that contribute to nonprofit organizations in distressed areas. It has $18 million available this fiscal year. Money, goods or services may be contributed in exchange for the tax credit.

Gulotta said the balance of a company's contribution can be written off as a charitable contribution.

Christiano said the goal for the county is to raise $250,000 in 2013.

Realizing the process of obtaining funding is competitive, approximately 15 business representatives, county and state officials in attendance agreed with a recommendation by Teri MacBride, regional community relations director for PPL Electric, to "keep politics" out of the selection process.

Colón suggested posting billboards in communities that would acknowledge contributions made by businesses to fight blight.

He said the goal of next year's program is to offer an 80 percent state tax credit.

"That's a good incentive to participate," he said. "The timing is right and I hope you take the opportunity to be part of the team to fight blight."

"This program requires perseverance and patience, but it can work," Gulotta said, reiterating the task force's "aggressive" goal of reducing blight in the county by 50 percent in five years and 30 percent in three years.

"This is the first program in the state in which a county has entered into a partnership with its municipalities to fight blight," he added, "and I think it has gone quite well thus far."

Deadline Nov. 1

Gulotta said an application to obtain tax credits must be submitted to DCED by Nov. 1, but he said commitment letters and contributions from businesses can be accepted after that deadline. If tax credits are approved by DCED, contributions need to be made by June 30, 2013.

Gulotta said contributions will be used to acquire and rehabilitate blighted properties or demolish them.

The application, which is prepared by the nonprofit organization receiving the contribution from the business, is more likely to be approved if the application is accompanied by a commitment letter.

Tax credits may be applied against corporate net income tax, bank and trust company shares tax, mutual thrift institutions tax, capital stock-franchise tax, insurance premiums tax and title insurance companies share tax.

When the nonprofit organization receives an approval letter from the state, the business firm will need to apply for the tax credits by Dec. 31 in the year the contribution is made.

Tax credits may be carried forward for up to five years.

Effort continues

The county housing authority convened its blight task force in the spring. A meeting with local governments was held recently, where there is a commitment on the part of county and local governments to ratchet up their efforts to address blight.

Christiano said Shamokin, Coal Township, Mount Carmel, Ralpho Township and Sunbury have made commitments to use 30 percent of their community development block grant (CDBG) money to attack blight while receiving supplemental state or federal funding. Milton and Delaware Township, the other two CDBG entitlement communities in the county, have not committed CDBG funds to the strategy, but can still refer blighted properties to the county planning commission, as can non-entitlement municipalities.

Christiano said municipal officials will determine which blighted properties are targeted. He believes a review board should be established for CDBG non-entitlement communities to help identity priority projects.

Since a number of recommendations will require funding, a plan has been developed to pursue $3 million in public and private funding to acquire, rehabilitate or demolish blighted properties.

Others in attendance Friday were state Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107), county Commissioners Stephen Bridy, Vinny Clausi and Richard Shoch, county planning and industrial development director Pat Mack, Frank Morrison and Bill Kuzo of Union National Bank in Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel Mayor J. Kevin Jones, who was a guest of Union National Bank, Kristin R. McVicar, controller for Cherokee Pharmaceuticals in Riverside, Tom Rall of Swineford/Fulton Bank, and Jim Minniti of M&T Bank.