County to re­quest con­sid­er­a­tion un­der new fed­eral pro­gram

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY ED­WIN DEL­GADO Staff Writer

Try­ing to get ahead of a new fed­eral pro­gram to boost eco­nomic devel­op­ment in dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties, the Im­pe­rial County Board of Su­per­vi­sors ap­proved a let­ter re­quest­ing the state con­sider the county.

The Op­por­tu­nity Zones pro­gram was es­tab­lished with the re­cently-passed tax re­form by Congress in De­cem­ber. The pur­pose of the pro­gram is to en­cour­age long-term in­vest­ments in low-in­come ur­ban and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties through­out the coun­try. It looks to pro­vide a tax in­cen­tive for in­vestors to re-in­vest un­re­al­ized cap­i­tal gains into op­por­tu­nity funds, which are ded­i­cated to in­vest­ing in the des­ig­nated op­por­tu­nity zones by the top of­fi­cials of ev­ery state and ter­ri­tory.

Ev­ery Gover­nor will be able to nom­i­nate up to 25 per­cent of the to­tal num­ber of low-in­come com­mu­ni­ties within each state as de­ter­mined by cen­sus tracts.

Due to the high un­em­ploy­ment rate and the low av­er­age house­hold in­come, Im­pe­rial County has no short­age of el­i­gi­ble ar­eas to be des­ig­nated op­por­tu­nity zones.

“We do feel Im­pe­rial County should take ad­van­tage of this op­por­tu­nity,” In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Re­la­tions Di­rec­tor Rebecca Ter­razas-Bax­ter told the Board Tues­day dur­ing a reg­u­lar meet­ing. “It’s a new and cre­ative eco­nomic devel­op­ment tool that will en­cour­age and sup­port devel­op­ment in dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties in our county.”

In the ap­proved let­ter the county will send to state of­fi­cials, lo­cal of­fi­cials are ask­ing the Gover­nor’s of­fice of busi­ness and eco­nomic devel­op­ment to con­sider four ar­eas of the county: Braw­ley, Holtville, south­ern por­tion of the county in and around Calex­ico, and the Sal­ton Sea-known Geo­ther­mal Area.

Be­cause the for­mal pro­ce­dure un­der which Gov. Jerry Brown will des­ig­nate such ar­eas has not been fi­nal­ized, Ter­razas asked the Board to ap­prove a draft let­ter which will be amended once the process is for­mally an­nounced. She said such an­nounce­ment is ex­pected to oc­cur prior to the next Board of Su­per­vi­sors meet­ing.

“Im­pe­rial County is in need of ad­di­tional eco­nomic devel­op­ment, which will also re­sult in lower un­em­ploy­ment, better oc­cu­pa­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties and other an­cil­lary ben­e­fits of eco­nomic growth,” states the draft let­ter ap­proved.

The state of Cal­i­for­nia cur­rently has more than 2,000 el­i­gi­ble low-in­come com­mu­nity cen­sus tracts which would al­low the state to nom­i­nated as many as 500. Each state has un­til March 21 to des­ig­nat­ing these ar­eas.

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