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The Friendship-Cuba Economic Development Zone has fostered 20 businesses, representing 32 new full-time jobs, the zone's director said Monday.

Russell V. Coombs told the Allegany County Legislature that these the 20 businesses also have added 16 part-time jobs to the county's economy.

Since its creation in 1994, $3.75 million have been invested in renovating, expanding or purchasing new equipment for zone businesses. The zone enables its businesses to apply for wage, real estate, investment and sales-tax breaks, utility-bill benefits and other incentives, he said.

A 30,000-square-foot incubator for new businesses currently is being planned for the economic zone, Coombs added. The project, on Route 275 south of the hamlet, will feature three 10,000-square foot buildings to house fledgling businesses.

Construction could get under way next spring, with space available within a year, Coombs added.

One benefit of the incubator is shared services, including payroll, accounting and marketing, he said. Coombs said the typical incubator tenant would employ from two to 10 people and remain at the site for five years.

"That's when we encourage them to go (to another site)," he said.

Coombs said he currently has commitments from five or six businesses for the incubator.

In addition, he added, the zone has fielded inquiries from 50 other businesses interested in moving there. He said he'd be pleased to lure three or four of these businesses to the zone.

Also Monday, the Legislature:

Scheduled a public hearing on the proposed 1998 budget for 7 p.m. Nov. 12.

The tentative $65.9 million budget compares to this year's spending plan of $62.4 million. On Friday, the Legislature, operating as a committee of the whole, will complete work on the document before the public-comment session.

Under the tentative plan, the real estate tax levy across the county would be $52.5 million, compared to $49.2 million this year.

Granted a tax exemption to the owners of old barns dating to the 1930s and earlier, who make improvements to them. The new local law exempts these improvements from being taxed.

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