Opportunity zones to boost revitalization

The American Press

President Trump recently signed an executive order creating the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to encourage private sector investment in low-income areas throughout the nation — including right here in Southwest Louisiana.

The president has appointed Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to lead the effort.

"These are still early days for the work of the Council and Opportunity Zones, but the groundwork has been laid," Secretary Carson said. "The seeds the president has planted are growing and the promise they hold will improve places long forgotten, and the lives of those who call those places home."

Trump’s executive order officially enacts the Opportunity Zones created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, to stimulate long-term investments in low-income communities.

The program offers capital gains tax relief to those who invest in these distressed areas. This program is anticipated to spur $100 billion in private investment in Opportunity Zones.

To date, 8,761 communities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and five territories have been designated as Opportunity Zones. On average, the median family income in an Opportunity Zone is 37 percent below the state median.

There have been five Opportunity Zones designated in Calcasieu Parish, and one each in Allen, Beauregard, Jeff Davis and Vernon parishes. Cameron Parish was not among those listed.

Based on the 2011-2015 American Community Survey, over 41,000 census tracts are eligible for designation as Qualified Opportunity Zones.

Among the benefits of Opportunity Zones are to fund new and small businesses, develop blighted properties, invest in key local infrastructure projects, finance facility construction or refurbishment, and a number of other activities intended to revitalize and enhance local economic ecosystems.

It is estimated over 52 million low-income Americans reside in distressed communities that may benefit from the investment brought by Opportunity Zones.

Hopefully officials in all the Southwest Louisiana parishes designated as Opportunity Zones will quickly take full advantage of the opportunities the Opportunity Zones are offering.