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February 27, 2018

State inviting recommendations for new 'Opportunity Zone' program

Courtesy / Maine Department of Economic and Community Development
Courtesy / Maine Department of Economic and Community Development
George Gervais, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, is seeking help from communities and local economic development organizations in identifying potential “Opportunity Zones” that would benefit from a new federal program offering tax benefits for qualifying investments.

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development is seeking help from communities and local economic development organizations in identifying potential "Opportunity Zones" that would benefit from a new federal program offering tax benefits for qualifying investments.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 established the new "Opportunity Zone" economic development program with the intent of encouraging long-term private investments in low-income communities. If a community becomes an Opportunity Zone, the resulting tax benefits may help attract new investment into the community to create jobs, stimulate growth, and provide greater prosperity to the individuals and families living there, DECD stated in a news release.

"In many Maine communities, this could be the catalyst to moving development projects forward by attracting much needed capital," said DECD Commissioner George Gervais. "I encourage input as we make final recommendations to the governor about which low-income census tracts are best positioned for success."

March deadline looming

Federal law requires all designations to be completed by March 21, with a provision allowing states to file a 30-day extension. Only 25% of Maine's 123 low-income community census tracts may be designated an Opportunity Zone, according to DECD. Additionally, 5% of the tracts designated may come from tracts contiguous to the low-income tracts. Maine's total cannot exceed 31 tracts.

"Opportunity Zones will help attract otherwise wary investors to underserved communities through the creation of Opportunity Funds," DECD stated in its news release. "With an estimated $2.3 trillion in underutilized capital gains, certain investments will no longer be subject to capital gains tax to incentivize long-term investor commitment."

Between now and March 9, DECD is accepting public input regarding the designation of Maine's Opportunity Zones. Interested parties are asked to submit the following:

  • What criteria should be used to determine Maine's Opportunity Zones?
  • Please specify tracts for consideration.
  • Please include justification for any criteria and/or tracts in your submission.

"There are communities across Maine with vacant industrial sites and an available workforce. This program could be the catalyst to really move the needle in areas of our state that need it the most," said Gervais.

Submissions can be sent to deborah.johnson@maine.gov by the March 9 deadline.

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