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Opportunity Zones could be helpful to Vicksburg

A provision in The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 could help influence individuals and businesses to invest in the Vicksburg area and jumpstart the area’s economic growth, economic development officials said.

According to information from the Mississippi Development Authority’s website, the act signed by President Donald Trump in December includes a provision to establish Opportunity Zones as a new community development program aimed to encourage long-term private investments in low-income and rural communities.

Under the act, private investment within a designated Opportunity Zone may earn tax breaks on the capital gains generated through the investments. The tax benefits increase the longer investments are in place.

The zones are based on census tracts with a poverty rate of 20 percent or greater and/or family income less than 80 percent of the area’s median income are eligible for consideration.

Warren County has been approved for three zones:

• An area beginning in North Vicksburg at Haining Road north to the county line that includes the Kings community.

• Downtown Vicksburg from the intersection of Main Street and First East Street to Depot Street.

• East Clay Street and U.S. 80.

“It certainly allows for more tax benefits for investors in these opportunity zones, and more tax exemptions, which should drive investment and make it more appealing for people to bring investments zones,” said Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pablo Diaz. “We did get three, which is a very high number for one county compared to most other counties.”

Diaz, however, said more information is needed about the opportunity zone programs.

“There is not any clear data yet from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) exactly what that (the zones) means,” Diaz said.

“The IRS has the authority and the responsibility to implement the opportunity zones, but when you look at their website, there’s no guidelines yet on what exactly that means other than in general terms, it will be some sort of tax cuts and exemptions for people who make investments in these tax-free zones.”

Diaz believes one thing the opportunity zones are trying to accomplish is to make sure communities that are underserved or underutilized can be more appealing.

“I definitely think midtown, downtown and the Kings community could benefit by being more attractive for investments,” he said.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the zones are a great opportunity for the city.

“Most of the (opportunity zone) applications were not granted,” he said. “I guess because of our relationship with the governor’s office and the president, we were able through the United States Treasury to get them.

“It will help us because it allows the developers to have tax credits on those investments,” Flaggs said.

“Given the time and what’s going on at the Outlet Mall, that’s going to be a win for us, especially with having an access road and being able to help with the growth of the Outlet Mall and try to revitalize it. And with the incubator with the (Mississippi) hardware store, it couldn’t come at a better time. I just think it’s a great opportunity for the potential growth of Vicksburg. It will mean jobs.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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