County to request consideration under new federal program
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.