Carter County named ‘Opportunity Zone’ by state

Published 5:07 pm Friday, May 25, 2018

A new tool for development in Carter County is soon on the horizon.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently issued a joint announcement with Bob Rolfe, Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner, that the U.S. Department of Treasury and the IRS approved the state’s nomination for 176 “Opportunity Zones,” with the county receiving designation.

According to information provided by the Treasury, Carter County census tract (47019071200) will be primed as an area to encourage long-term investment thanks to “Qualified Opportunity Funds.” First signed in 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was created as a way to encourage development for at-risk counties across the country to promote development with assistance from the IRS.

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“This is an exciting day for Tennessee as we announce the approved Opportunity Zones for our state,” Haslam said in a statement issued from the department. “As part of the Opportunity Zone benefit, communities across Tennessee will be better equipped to succeed. Tennessee’s 176 Opportunity Zones are dispersed across all three of Tennessee’s grand divisions, and I look forward to seeing how this program will transform our communities and Tennessee as a whole.”

According to information provided by the state’s Economic and Community Development Office, investors can reinvest capital gains in an opportunity zone to earn “federal capital gain tax benefits.” Examples of investments that qualify for the program include multi-family housing, industrial development and retail development.

Carter County’s zone spans from West Elk Avenue near the outskirts and Lynn Valley spans all the way through 19E until the Sullivan County border — which also received designation from the state.

Information used to comprise the zone came from the census tract information from 2011-15. The population in the tract is 3,870 with a recorded unemployment rate of 11 percent and a poverty rate of 31.30. The median income percentage for the tract is 64.88.

The recent announcement means another tool is available to benefit for the county, according to Mayor Leon Humphrey.

“We appreciate the state and federal government for naming us an opportunity zone,” Humphrey said. “There’s a focus now to assist at-risk counties, and that makes up almost all of Northeast Tennessee. This is a way to encourage development for retail and tourism activity.”

Economic development has been one resource that has been heavily pushed by the mayor’s office, with several thousands of dollars coming through its economic development office in the form of grant funding for different projects.

“We’ve learned that the ways of the past are not working,” he said. “We’ve been able to make progress and now this is another way to diligently work at making Carter County a better place for the public.”