‘Opportunity Zones’ created in Georgia

Published 8:12 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2018

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service approved Georgia’s nominations for Qualified Opportunity Zones, which lawmakers hope will spur economic growth in low-income communities.

The program rewards employers for creating jobs in certain areas. Congress approved the creation of Opportunity Zones as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 in November. Following that approval, Gov. Nathan Deal submitted 260 nominations from 83 counties to be considered for the designation. All of those nominations were approved Monday, including several zones in Troup County.

“In Georgia, we have seen firsthand the value of adhering to conservative principles and creating a business-friendly environment to promote economic development,” said Deal in a press release. “By attracting more private investment to underserved areas, the tax incentives for Qualified Opportunity Zones will further encourage businesses to invest in the communities that need it most, while also creating meaningful employment opportunities across the state.”

Georgia’s submissions included 60 percent rural communities and 40 percent urban communities. Qualified Opportunity Zones are supposed to encourage investment in areas where poverty rates are greater than 20 percent.

“The areas we nominated for this distinction include both rural and urban communities that experienced a slower economic recovery in the last few years, and these tax incentives represent another step forward in their economic revitalization,” Deal said. “We look forward to working with the Department of the Treasury, the IRS and the private sector to take full advantage of this program and boost economic growth for Georgia’s economically disadvantaged areas.”

Troup County has seen job growth in recent years, and lawmakers hope this will continue the trend of job growth.

“One of the many benefits to tax reform has been the creation of Qualified Opportunity Zones so that regions, cities and states and local governments can take quick and meaningful action to help economically disadvantaged areas,” U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in a press release. “For too long, capital investment has become concentrated in a few prosperous regions while many communities, especially in smaller cities and rural areas, have seen little economic growth. Qualified Opportunity Zones will allow businesses to invest in areas that need a boost, providing a win-win for all involved.”

In LaGrange and Troup County, that means another incentive to encourage employers to open businesses and expand in the area. The incentive is open to new and existing businesses.

“It is another tool in our economic development toolbox,” LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said. “I am glad the governor included LaGrange as one of the areas.”

Information the Federal Opportunity Zones is still being released, but the program is different from the state program by the same name that has been in effect for years.

“What we know at this point is that this program allows investors to defer taxes on any prior capital gains until no later than Dec. 31, 2026, as long as the gain is reinvested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund – an investment vehicle organized to make investments in Qualified Opportunity Zones,” said MaryBrown Sandy, the director of marketing and communications for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. “In addition, if the investor holds the investment in the Opportunity Fund for at least 10 years, he or she is eligible for an increase in its basis equal to the fair market value of the investment on the date that it is sold.  Treasury and the IRS plan to issue additional guidance to address the certification of Opportunity Funds, which are required to have at least 90 percent of fund assets invested in Opportunity Zones.”

More information is expected to be released in the near future, but leaders are excited about the program’s potential.

“The key to driving economic growth in struggling communities is to create a more business-friendly environment,” Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in a press release. “Encouraging private investment into these Opportunity Zones will deliver a boost to small businesses and create more job opportunities. When President Trump was elected, he made it clear that job one was growing the economy. These Opportunity Zones will help, and I will continue working with President Trump to improve our economy.”

*** The story has been updated to clarify differences between Federal Opportunity Zones and state Opportunity Zones.