Visit from HUD Secretary an incentive to work together for economic development

Published 9:00 pm Saturday, December 22, 2018

The visit of a key sitting United States Cabinet member was a significant event for Vicksburg and Warren County. Dr. Ben Carson got to see first-hand what our community is capable of and the potential for future economic development during his time Thursday in the River City.

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who was recently named the head of the Opportunity and Revitalization Council by President Donald Trump, toured the Vicksburg Forest Products facility, which took advantage of opportunity zone funds to buy the Anderson-Tully Mill in May, saving 125 jobs in the process.

During a press conference following a tour of the plant, Carson called the sawmill facility “ just an incredible sight here, because this is one of the first places to actually take advantage of the opportunity zones and opportunity funds. Had it not been for that program, it would very likely that this place would have closed down and those jobs gone away.”

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Opportunity zones are an inducement for long-term economic investment in “economically distressed” areas. The tax break incentives offered through the opportunity zone program allow investors to protect their investment.

“But more importantly, those parts of our country which no one has had any interest in investing in suddenly have a real inducement for investing in those areas,” Carson said.

“That creates an economic base and strengthens us as a nation and providing good paying jobs.”

Vicksburg Forest Products is viewed as a model for others to follow while investing in Warren County’s economic future.

“This is the model for the opportunity zone,” Mayor George Flags Jr., said. “This is the first in the state and maybe in the nation. We’ve been able to model it to a point where the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development wants to come see it.”

Such a visit from Dr. Carson could attract outside industry, as well as promote incentives for current industry to invest in our community.

“I would like to remind everyone, investors inside and outside of Vicksburg, that we have three different opportunity zones in this community; that’s more than most communities in the state,” Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, said.

Carson’s visit was nice and we are certain he enjoyed the warm hospitality that Vicksburg and Mississippi is known for, but it is up to us and local leaders to work together in making that potential economic growth a reality.