Since passing the tax cuts legislation, West Virginians are really seeing the benefits. I’ve heard from so many individuals, families and small businesses in communities all across our state about the ways they’ve benefited from tax reform.
But when we passed that legislation, it wasn’t just about the benefits. It was also about creating opportunities.
One of the provisions in the tax cuts bill — a provision I was very proud to co-sponsor — created something called “opportunity zones,” which will help spur growth in economically distressed areas.
The idea behind the program is simple: incentivize private investment in communities that need it most.
But sometimes it’s easier said than done. Many of these communities have developed interesting ideas and a strong ambition to carry them out, but they’re in need of the capital to jump-start these ideas.
This is where opportunity zones come into play.
Under the provision, investors can defer capital gains taxes by investing in “opportunity funds.” These funds, in turn, must invest in distressed areas designated by governors in each state as opportunity zones. The investments will provide capital to help grow new businesses and create jobs in the parts of our country that really need them.
Driving investment like this hasn’t always been easy in a small, rural state like West Virginia, and it’s something that we continue to struggle with in certain areas and industries. That’s why we are the perfect example of a state that can benefit from opportunity zones. And it’s clear to me that enthusiasm is growing across the Mountain State when it comes to our economic potential.
In recent months, I’ve been working to make that clear to others, as well.
Almost a year ago, I hosted my colleague, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., in Huntington, where we heard directly from city officials about how this program can shape growth in the community. And just last week, I hosted the executive director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, Scott Turner, right here in Charleston. During this visit, Charleston leaders — like Mayor Amy Goodwin and other elected officials — learned about the council’s mission to help support opportunity zones by providing critical federal grant funding from 13 agencies to complement private investment in the zones. Our visit included three listening sessions, two tours of opportunity zones within the city, and one goal: to revitalize this city and the entire state of West Virginia.
That’s the best thing about opportunity zones, they are not only about driving investment now, but they’re also meant to establish a strong foundation that can support future growth and sustainable development.
What’s even better is the increasing engagement across the state. Law firms, accounting firms, investors and others are already working to use this new provision to attract jobs and promote economic growth.
Take the city of Parkersburg as an example. They have developed their own pitch book and are actively marketing specific project and proposals.
To keep the momentum going and spread the word about opportunity zones, my staff and I have been conducting outreach in every single one of our state’s opportunity zones. In fact, earlier this spring, we conducted a three-day educational tour in partnership with public- and private-sector leaders, as well as the nonprofit community.
I am confident that West Virginians and others will make the most of this tool, because this is an opportunity that we just can’t afford to miss.
It’s an opportunity to transform our economy and improve our communities, an opportunity to lift up the individuals and businesses that contribute to them and an opportunity to build the foundation for a brighter and more prosperous future.
These are the kinds of opportunities we have been able to deliver and will continue to deliver for West Virginians and for all Americans.