PIKEVILLE, Ky. – The U.S. Department of Treasury certified 144 tracts in Kentucky as Opportunity Zones on Monday, April 9. Of those tracts, 71 were scattered across 47 counties in Appalachia Kentucky.
Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), said the announcement validates the collaboration and innovation taking place across the region.
“Communities throughout the SOAR region are working diligently to remove silos and blur county and municipal lines when developing and implementing economic and community development strategies,” said Arnett. “There’s not one single remedy to addressing the job shortages and other challenges taking place in Appalachia Kentucky. We must think holistically and develop a platform where everyone – and every idea – has a seat at the table.”
The Opportunity Zone program is part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and is aimed to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural areas. The designation provides significant tax breaks and deferrals to businesses and individuals investing in Opportunity Funds, which support development projects in one or more zones.
Kentucky’s Cabinet for Economic Development will oversee the program. They launched a website, www.kyoz.org, to provide maps, current projects, data, opportunity funds information, and more information to tout the advantages of the state’s zones to potential investors.
Arnett said the designation of 71 tracts in Appalachia Kentucky demonstrates the region is open for business and primed for investment.
“Appalachia Kentucky has a highly-skilled and adaptable workforce,” he added. “The people of our region are our most valuable natural resource. They have ingenuity, passion, desire, and unwavering work ethic and commitment to their work and their employer. We have innovative K-12 schools districts, whose innovation has captured the attention of the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates and Mark Zuckerberg; a responsive, agile, and industry-driven cluster of community and technical colleges; a group of four-year colleges and universities committed to higher education and its role in community and economic development; and workforce investment boards ready and willing to provide services and training to both employers and potential employees.”
Arnett said a new narrative of Appalachia Kentucky, for the first time in history, is being authored by those people who call the region home.
“This chapter is being authored by us – leaders, business and industry, small business owners, entrepreneurs, students, and ordinary people working purposefully within their passion to build a 21st Century Appalachia,” he continued. “We are no longer playing the characters of a narrative written by someone else. We are excited to have the Opportunity Zone distinction as another tool in our toolkit. The challenges facing our region are no match to our resolve to seek endless opportunities that bring hope, promise, and prosperity to all who seek it.”