Ripe for investment: Mayors convene in OKC to discuss opportunity zones

Published: Monday, September 9, 2019 By: Steve Metzer Source: The Journal Record

Mayor David Holt had a unique opportunity to showcase the city Thursday and Friday when mayors of Los Angeles, Cincinnati and other major metros met here for a gathering of leaders of Accelerator for America.

Accelerator for America, described as a “research and development arm of cities and mayors,” works with local governments across the United States to generate revenue for infrastructure and other initiatives to improve quality of life. Rather than a “think tank,” it is characterized as a “do tank.” Holt recently joined its advisory council.

Business executives, labor leaders and officers of nonprofits and philanthropic organizations also were among those who gathered in Oklahoma City for meetings of the council, which is chaired by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Other officials represented Houston and Austin, Texas; Philadelphia, Pa.; Chicago; Lansing, Mich.; Topeka, Kansas; and other cities, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Among other things, the leaders discussed federally recognized “opportunity zones” that can attract investments to cities and states. Holt described eight opportunity zones in the Oklahoma City metro as strong options for American taxpayers who might choose to delay or even potentially avoid paying taxes on capital gains by investing in what the mayor termed “OZ projects” through qualified opportunity funds.

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in 2017 included incentives for investors across the country to defer paying capital gains taxes and also to reduce tax bills over a period of years by investing in opportunity zones. At least 8,764 zones have been identified across the nation. Oklahoma, one of the first 15 states to designate zones, has 117 in all. Exact numbers are difficult to come by, but Garcetti said it’s likely that hundreds of OZ infrastructure and quality-of-life improvement projects are underway or being explored nationwide.

Eight zones in OKC that Holt described as ripe for investment include:

  • The Central Business District, including Bricktown, the Arts District, Film Row, Deep Deuce, Automobile Alley, and the Boathouse District. The American Indian Cultural Center & Museum is just one of many attractions in the area, which has seen huge investment, both private and public, in recent years and is due for more.
  • The Innovation District, featuring a cluster of medical and research institutions that attract three-quarters of project dollars Oklahoma receives from the National Institutes of Health.
  • The 23rd Street Corridor, an area with high demand for services and residential development. Close to the emerging Innovation District and the Oklahoma Capitol, the area boasts 359 acres of vacant land.
  • The I-35 industrial zone, focused on transportation
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