Nearly anywhere you look right now, all signs point to a thriving economy. Stagnation has given way to real growth. Uncertainty has been replaced with expansion. And most encouraging: A lack of confidence in the country’s economic direction has turned into optimism at levels we haven’t seen in years.
Yet amid all this positivity, there are areas that are still recovering, that still have yet to be reached by economic growth. These places are beginning to see the potential of the opportunity zones provision included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which provides incentives for attracting private capital to distressed areas. This provision helps make economic growth less uneven, so neighborhoods in need of revitalization have a better path to prosperity, and helps keep that growth going long-term.
Since zones throughout all 50 states and D.C. were approved in April, stories of their emerging impact have encouraged local leaders. Here are a few recent snapshots:
- In downtown Augusta, Maine, an area once full of shuttered buildings is being revitalized. It’s given residents reason to be optimistic about the city’s future. As Augusta Downtown Alliance Executive Director Michael Hall said, “That we have one of the first [opportunity zones] in the state says a lot about where Augusta is going.”
- Birmingham, Alabama is “Preparing for economic impact of Opportunity Zones,” according to a new article. The city is leading the way with a newly created Birmingham Inclusive Growth Fund to draw investors. A CEO of a local economic development organization spoke about the potential this could unleash, saying “it’s an incentive that could encourage business investment as well as physical redevelopment in a wide range of the territory of the city.” Beyond Birmingham, the state has an opportunity zone in every county, meaning the possibilities for growth are widespread.
- An article titled “Staunton’s West End Could Benefit from Opportunity Zones Program” highlights one Virginia city that could see a boost from an influx of investments. The town’s Mayor, Carolyn Dull, called the program a “win-win”: “The community benefits from new commerce, and investors have an opportunity to launch a profitable venture.”
- In Southern Utah, opportunity zones are bringing hope to both urban and rural areas previously neglected by economic growth. Gov. Gary Herbert held a forum this week on the zones, saying they’ll “go a long way in helping to support growth in economically-distressed areas throughout the state.” The designated zones are reaching diverse areas across the state—from old mining neighborhoods to tribal lands. The St. George Spectrum noted, “Local leaders are encouraged about Opportunity Zones though, largely because of the way the zones were picked—starting with local input.”
Read more on how things are looking up around the country: