It’s really nice every once in a while to see the positive results that can be realized when politicians of different stripes work together for the public good.
More than 100 business and economic leaders in the Chippewa Valley attended a seminar Tuesday at the Pablo Center at the Confluence to discuss Designated Economic Opportunity Zones. The zones are census tracts that are eligible to receive private investment through Opportunity Funds, a “private investment vehicle, certified by the Treasury, to aggregate and deploy capital,” according to Enterprise Community Partners.
Former Gov. Scott Walker approved 120 zones across 40 counties in rural and urban parts of the state, nine of which are in west-central Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Economic Development Association reported that the program “is designed to drive long-term investment to low-income communities by providing investors with certain tax incentives when they re-invest unrealized capital gains in designated Opportunity Zones.”
“It’s a unique program in my mind, as it’s a win-win,” James Hanke, a business development representative for Market & Johnson, said in a Leader-Telegram story by Samantha West. “It’s a win for communities, seeing that redevelopment in areas that are underperforming or underserved, and it’s a win for investors.”
Four years ago, a public-policy firm, Economic Innovation Group developed the Opportunity Zone concept. It was enacted nationally as part of last year’s tax reform package. The effort was introduced by a bipartisan group led by Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio.
“It’s huge, really,” said Dave Armstrong, Barron County Economic Development Corp. director, in West’s story, “especially when you look at other things that can be done with it. ... This is another great tool for rural areas.”
Andy Albarado, Rusk County EDC director, agreed: “Out in the rural areas, we don’t have as much of an investment community in private development projects, so this is just another tool to drive some investment.”
The impact of the program remains to be seen as wrinkles are ironed out, but its intent is admirable: “a systematic approach to helping address the uneven economic recovery and persistent lack of growth that have left too many American communities behind,” the ECP reported.
It’s also refreshing, and all too infrequent an occasion, to see members of the major parties partnering on any piece of legislation.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor