COLUMBIA -- A South Carolina House panel approved a measure Wednesday giving tax breaks for renovations of blighted buildings, a move lawmakers from both parties said they hope could breathe life into tiny, worn main streets and decrepit strip malls. The measure approved by a Ways and Means subcommittee gives a 25 percent state income tax credit to businesses that invest at least $500,000 in a building vacated for at least five years. "We think this will be a great catalyst for economic development in towns large and small, urban and rural," said Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia. Smith told the subcommittee that the measure has broad bipartisan support because it will bring jobs and economic development to all areas of the state. More than 30 members have signed on to the bill. Smith said it would apply to areas that have been abandoned by so-called "Big Box" stores. Several members of the panel noted that a similar measure was killed last year. Smith said that measure applied only to government buildings, and since the current version applies to any building, it has gathered more widespread backing. The panel sent the measure on to the full committee after Mike Bedenbaugh of the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation testified it would generate about $20 in revenue for every dollar of tax credit. "We know the impact this could have, by bringing capital back into towns and removing these abandoned properties," Bedenbaugh told the panel. He said a study conducted by the Trust, a nonprofit that works with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, found it could have an impact across the state and not just in urban sites. Bedenbaugh and Smith cited a previous bill approved by lawmakers years ago that was directed at the renovation of old textile mills and led to the emergence of vibrant city centers in Greenville and areas of Columbia. The older brick buildings are now thriving business and retail sites, they said. Rep. William Whitmire, R-Walhalla, said he was enthusiastic about the measure because he had served as Walhalla's mayor for nearly five years and knew what stress the current economic downturn has placed on smaller communities. "I'm hopeful this would jumpstart some development in these small towns," Whitmire said.