A group of Onslow County officials traveled to Charlotte on Feb. 7 for the Opportunity Now Summit with headline speaker President Donald J. Trump attending.
Board of commissioners Chairman Jack Bright, Vice Chairman Paul Buchanan, Commissioner Tim Foster, Interim County Manager Sharon Russell, Assistant County Manager Ben Warren and Clerk to the Board Julie Wand visited Central Piedmont Community College for a chance to hobnob with colleagues looking to take advantage of relatively new legislation.
At the center of the summit was the Opportunity Zone program, part of the federal tax legislation known as The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The legislation, signed in 2017 by President Trump, allows outside investors to defer capital gains taxes through investing in low-income areas.
The law allows each state to designate up to 25 percent of its total low-income “census tracts” as zone candidates.
“The interesting thing about the opportunity zone legislation is, it’s federal,” Russell said. “The purpose of it is to give incentives to investors and private companies to come in and improve those properties. It opens the door for grant availability and tax incentives for private groups who can come in and implement low-income housing or other improvements to properties that they may not otherwise select.”
Via the N.C. Department of Commerce, investors in the program can receive three key federal tax incentives – temporary tax deferral for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund, step-up in basis for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund and permanent exclusion from taxable income of long-term capital gains.
According the Department of Commerce, the state currently has 252 opportunity zones (25 percent of roughly 1,000), with two in Onslow County.
“We have two large opportunity zones in Onslow County, including one that falls within the jurisdiction of the city (of Jacksonville),” Russell said. “However, it’s not really the county’s goal to prepare that or invest in that, instead we make sure that land is available, the road is clear and we’re ready to roll. That way we can let investors know that it’s here and it’s available.”
The convention provided valuable information and inspiration for the county officials looking to see how Onslow’s opportunity zones can be cleared for investment.
“We went up there to network and get a better understanding of the opportunity zones,” Buchanan said. “There was a lot of information there, information that made a lot of sense for our people here in Onslow County. There was a lot of talk about education and other aspects that were very relevant to the county.”
Currently, the county has no knowledge of ongoing or completed projects in the county’s opportunity zones.
Aside from President Trump, notable speakers at the summit were Secretary of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Jovita Carranza of the Small Business Administration and White House Opportunity & Revitalization Council Executive Director Scott Turner.
“The audience and the energy in there was amazing,” Buchanan said. “Each speaker was tremendous, but I really enjoyed hearing from (Taylor). He talked about all the opportunity zones and how the money can help different areas. He talked about the opioid problems and the homeless problems, and how opportunity zones can help those. We gained a lot, learned a lot. It was very exciting for everyone who went.”
Russell echoed Buchanan’s sentiments on the benefits of the trip.
“It was a short trip, but a great one. Attending the summit and hearing the President speak was an incredible experience.”
Email Zack Nally at email@example.com.