County Input Sought on “Opportunity Zone” Designations

The State Agencies working to designate “Opportunity Zones” created under recent federal tax reforms are seeking input from county officials.

Under the 2017 tax reforms, Congress established a new program, where states designate a series of census tracts as “Opportunity Zones.” From the website of the Economic Innovation Group, this tidy description of the funding scheme connected to the designated Opportunity Zones:

WHAT ARE OPPORTUNITY FUNDS? Opportunity Funds are private sector investment vehicles that invest at least 90 percent of their capital in Opportunity Zones. U.S. investors currently hold trillions of dollars in unrealized capital gains  in stocks and mutual funds alone— a significant untapped resource for economic development. Opportunity Funds provide investors the chance to put that money to work rebuilding the nation’s left-behind communities. The fund model will enable a broad array of investors to pool their resources in Opportunity Zones, increasing the scale of investments going to underserved areas.

MACo sent a letter to the two affected state Departments, urging a process to incorporate county input into that selection. From MACo’s letter:

County governments have a close and special knowledge of the communities that fall under their jurisdiction and a significant stake in the census tracts to be selected. They have helpful information about the specific areas of need, local priorities, land use planning, and local projects or investments that may help inform the decision-making process. A public process, affording local governments—as well as their economic and community development partners—the ability to share their valuable knowledge could substantially improve the effectiveness of the Opportunity Zones designated across our state.

Maryland has a short time window to offer its zone designations. The Administration has responded by designating an official at the Housing Department, who will serve as a coordinator for any input received. County views on the “Opportunity Zone” designation process should be directed to:

Michael White
Chief of Staff
Department of Housing & Community Development
Office of the Secretary
7800 Harkins Road
Lanham, MD 20706

The timetable for the zone selection is rapid, so counties are encouraged to submit any input to the Department in an expedited basis.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties