HUD Secretary Carson highlights ‘Opportunity Zone’ program at MS summit

Over the past two days, Mississippi’s capital city has played host to state and local officials, community leaders, investors, and U.S. government leaders for the Southeastern Regional Opportunity Zone Summit.

Mississippi currently has over 100 ‘opportunity zones’, which were created as part of the ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017’ to boost economic development and job creation in distressed communities throughout the country.

Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, served as the keynote speaker at the summit.

“As the President said in his inaugural speech ‘the forgotten men and women of America will be forgotten no longer’, and this program is one of the manifestations of that,” he said. “At HUD, we run on the principle that all Americans need to have the ability to succeed when given the opportunity. We have a chance to create that opportunity for many people, and the more people in our society that succeed, the stronger our society becomes.”

Dr. Carson said that the goal is to encourage investments that are “here today and here to stay” with benefits for investors coming after a minimum of five years. He also said that the program encourages investors to stay involved in the communities to continue to attract more capital investment.

“Opportunity zones are designed to spur economic development by providing tax benefits to investors. First, investors can defer tax on any prior gains invested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) until the earlier of the date on which the investment in a QOF is sold or exchanged, or December 31, 2026. If the QOF investment is held for longer than 5 years, there is a 10% exclusion of the deferred gain. If held for more than 7 years, the 10% becomes 15%. Second, if the investor holds the investment in the Opportunity Fund for at least ten years, the investor is eligible for an increase in basis of the QOF investment equal to its fair market value on the date that the QOF investment is sold or exchanged.” – IRS.gov

During his remarks, Secretary Carson mentioned that while there have been critics of the program, he offers those critics a different perspective.

“Some people have complained and said that ‘it’s just a program for rich people to get richer’. Well, news flash, rich people are going to get richer anyway,” Sec. Carson joked. “They are going to invest their money, so why not create a program that incentivizes them to invest it in areas that have been neglected so that the rising tide can float all boats.”

Afterward, the Secretary stood alongside Governor Bryant while announcing the launch of a new website to help spread the word about the program, opportunityzones.gov.

“It will bring the communities, investors and resources together with the click of a button,” he said.

The website offers an interactive map of opportunity zones across the country, updates from the White House, tools for those looking to invest in these areas and much more.