SC Congressman Ralph Norman visits 5th District opportunity zones

LANCASTER COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - South Carolina Congressman Ralph Norman made three stops in the 5th Congressional District Wednesday to advertise opportunity zones to private investors.

The opportunity zones program is part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act. According to scopportunityzone.com, the program is designed to offer federal tax incentives to private investors who develop in low-income areas.

In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster nominated 128 opportunity zones. Lancaster County, Chester County, Chesterfield County and Rock Hill all have parcels of land that were chosen.

The federal tax incentives include:

  • Investors can roll existing capital gains in Opportunity Funds with no up-front tax bill
  • A 5-year holding increases the rolled-over capital gains basis by 10 percent
  • A 7-year holding increases the rolled-over capital gain investment basis by 5 percent for a total of 15 percent
  • Opportunity fund investments held in the fund for at least 10 years are not taxed for capital gains
  • Investors can defer their original tax bill until December 31, 2026, at the latest, or until they sell their Opportunity fund investments, if earlier.

"Think about what this could mean for downtown Lancaster," Congressman Norman said. "It doesn't matter what kind of company, could be real estate, could be a telecommunications company, anyone that has money that wants to invest in Lancaster."

Mayor Pro Tempore of Lancaster Tamara Garris explained the economic distress parts of the city have been in recently.

"Over the past few years, a decline in the number of employment opportunities, more businesses closing than opening and children who are growing up in the face of long odds in climbing the economic ladder," Garris said.

She said opportunity zones are a small step in helping businesses and Lancaster succeed. She hopes to gain block grants and other federal subsidies to help the businesses who invest get on their feet.

Lancaster County Economic Development Director Jamie Gilbert says once downtown becomes more lively, the surrounding areas will have better luck in attracting investors as well. Since the opportunity zone announcement, he says some investors have already started looking at vacant buildings.

"Without a healthy, vibrant downtown it makes it hard to attract businesses to the community," Gilbert explained.

The City of Chester was also nominated as an opportunity zone. Economic Development Director of Chester County Karlisa Parker says the county has struggled economically since the textile mills closed, plus vacant and aging buildings in downtown have not attracted new investors.

She hopes the opportunity zone incentives could attract some start-up businesses, who can then spread the word about investing in Chester.

"You would hope that if the small business people who are successful would want to stay in downtown and promote that this is what helped them get started," Parker explained.

Congressman Norman said the U.S. Department of Treasury has to sign off on the nominations before businesses can take advantage of the opportunity zone program.

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