Mapping Potential 'Opportunity Zones'
Jess Weaver shares a map from Esri that determines whether Census tracts across the country are qualified for the Opportunity Zone program, enabled by the "Investing in Opportunity Act" approved by Congress in 2017 and the tax reform package signed by President Trump into law late in 2017. The case for the Opportunity Zones as a component of the tax reform bill was also originally spearheaded by the Economic Innovation Group think tank.
The bill established Opportunity Zones, "which encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities across the country," explains Weaver. "The Opportunity Zones program provides a tax incentive for investors to re-invest their unrealized capital gains into so-called 'Opportunity Funds.' These funds apportion at least 90 percent of their capital to specific areas designated by the chief executives of every U.S. state and territory."
Jim Tankersley reports on the GOP tax reform package's role in bringing Opportunity Zones to fruition. Tankersley reports that Opportunity Zones represents the first "substantial federal attempt" to aid struggling communities in more than a decade. "If the zones succeed, they could help revitalize neighborhoods and towns that are starved for investment," writes Tankersley. "They could also deliver a windfall, in the form of avoided capital gains taxes, for corporations and financiers who invest in the Opportunity Zones."
The value of Esri's map is in informing state chief executives as they prepare to designate Opportunity Zones. The deadline for that decision was set for 90 to 120 days after December 22, 2017. The maps will also provide a valuable comparison tool after those recommendations are made.