WH Exec. Director on NC opportunity zones: ‘I’m encouraged by what I saw. I’m encouraged by what I heard’

Updated: Oct. 9, 2019 at 1:56 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - White House Opportunity and Revitalization leaders toured the Rowan County area Tuesday on a visit for potential opportunity zones.

“You know the first thing that stuck out to me was the people of Salisbury,” says Scott Turner, Executive Director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council.

Turner says he felt a tremendous sense of unity while touring Salisbury and Rowan County Tuesday. Everyone, from the mayor down, invested in coming together for the sake of revitalization.

“I’m encouraged by what I saw. I’m encouraged by what I heard,” says Turner. “I know with this new tool of opportunity zones they’re going to take full advantage of it and bear a lot of fruit, from economic development to community development.”

Turner says federally they will have the tools to help towns like Salisbury attract private investors to revitalize, for example, the Empire Hotel in downtown Salisbury. In turn, investors would receive tax breaks. It’s starts with local leadership coming up with a strategy.

“Once you have that strategy... then you can start attracting investment into that project into those opportunity zones for people inside of that city or outside to say, ‘Hey these are the resources we have. This is the project pipeline we have and this is why we think you should come to Salisbury to interject capital here,’" says Turner.

Accompanying Turner is Ja’Ron Smith with the Trump administration’s Office of American Innovation and Deputy Assistant to the President. Smith explains how Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) could also benefit from the potential of opportunity zones.

“Many of these institutions are in opportunity zones and it gives us the opportunity to connect with the private sector and figure out a new way to revitalize these institutions so that they are a part of the 21st century," says Smith. “Our administration is just looking at things holistically and private and public partnerships are at the center of where we want to take the institutions that are willing to work with us.”

Smith says he recently visited North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro where the school created an incubator inside of a warehouse for up-and-coming engineers. He says they’re looking to expand projects like that into opportunity zones.

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