LIMA — To better understand the benefits of Lima’s opportunity zones, Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan visited Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to take part in an opportunity zone conference hosted on White House grounds.
More than 8,700 census tracts throughout the United States were designated as “opportunity zones” in 2018. Meant to incentivize capital investment into certain areas, opportunity zones nix the capital gains tax for long-term investment into projects in qualified areas.
The City of Lima has three such tracts centered around the downtown region. Other cities close by with a designated opportunity zone include Celina and Van Wert.
But a year after zones were identified, local investors are still leery as information about the program is still being discussed. According to Allen Economic Development Group President Dave Stratton, no investor has used the tax break so far in Lima, but Stratton said there’s a handful who have expressed interest in doing so.
“There are five or six investors that are very interested in using it. It’s not a program that’s been out very long, or that’s understood,” Stratton said. “The challenge is that it’s a tool to be used, but it’s not the whole picture.”
Noonan’s participation as one of two of Ohio’s representative in the conference should help in extending such understanding. Noonan said the purpose of Wednesday’s D.C. conference was to increase collaboration between different levels of government and better identify successful regulatory measures for the new program.
A portion of the conference included speeches and Q-and-A sessions with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. President Donald Trump, however, did arrive for a brief 15-minute period to discuss the strength of the economy and the benefits of opportunity zones.
“Who would of thought this was going to be so successful? Who would have thought?” Trump said during the conference. “When we first proposed the idea, they said, ‘Well, things like this have already been talked about but it never happened.’ But the numbers are incredible in a very short time.”
Noonan said, “I’m excited. I think this is going to be a shot in the arm for places that need investment.”
To qualify a census tract as an opportunity zone, median household income in that tract has to equal 37% of the state’s median income. Ohio has 320 certified opportunity zones.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.