Gov. Larry Hogan today announced a package of proposals intended to propel job creation and economic activity in the state’s 149 new federal “Opportunity Zones,” 42 of which are in Baltimore.
The governor stood today with Mayor Catherine Pugh and other local leaders and residents at Walbrook Mill, a former lumber yard in West Baltimore being converted into a mixed-use commercial and residential hub in the heart of one of Baltimore City’s designated Opportunity Zones.
Among Hogan’s announced programs:
-The More Opportunities for Marylanders Act of 2019: If passed by the General Assembly in the upcoming session, it would allow businesses that relocate to or expand in an opportunity zone to receive a 10-year tax credit, have their state property taxes exempted and waive any business filing or reporting fees. Companies would be eligible for $6 million in total tax credits for creating jobs.
-The EARN workforce development grant program: It would invest up to $3 million into a new job-training program called Opportunity Works, offering grants to businesses that locate themselves in the zones and train locals. Hogan noted it would fixate on “Maryland’s strength” in the life sciences and cybersecurity sectors.
-The Maryland Technology Infrastructure Fund: It would invest $16 million into a new fund staffed by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, aka TEDCO, and led by state, university and private sector leaders. It’s assigned with creating a long-term vision and implementation plan to draw more than $500 million in private investment in the next 10 years.
–Rental Housing Works: The state Department of Housing and Community Development will offer $20 million for the program to fund construction and renovation of affordable housing in Opportunity Zones.
-Neighborhood BusinessWorks: Maryland DHCD will provide $8 million for the small business lending program.
-Strategic Demolition Fund: The same department will fund $3.5 million for ongoing demolition of derelict buildings in Opportunity Zones.
“Our plan is to make Maryland’s 149 opportunity zones the most competitive ones in America,” Hogan said at the press conference. “Our goal is to give these communities, and more importantly the citizens who live there, greater opportunities and more hope for a better future.”
Opportunity Zones are a new federal tax incentive-based program created in federal tax reform legislation that was enacted in December 2017, designed to lift up distressed neighborhoods and fuel business growth in each. State and local leaders picked where they would be located, and the U.S. Treasury Department approved them in April.
You may have heard of the new zones last month, when President Donald Trump was supposed to come here to talk about the program and how it could help Baltimore. The meeting ended up being relocated to the White House, a gathering that Rev. Donte Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore attended.
“Providing federal capital gains tax incentives is a great start, but it may not be enough to ensure the revitalization of many of these neighborhoods and communities,” Hogan said before announcing his package of initiatives and legislative proposals today. He said he’s counting on state and local agencies and the private sector to “supercharge our opportunity zone revitalization.”
In addition to the funds, totaling more than $56 million, Hogan issued an executive order today creating the Maryland Opportunity Zone Leadership Council, which will be chaired by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford. The task force will be tasked with setting goals for all 149 zones and considering ways for state and local agencies to collaborate.
And he also announced the creation of a new resource, called the Maryland Opportunity Zone Information Exchange, which will offer data on each zone and track investment activity and projects online.
Baltimore has more than a quarter of Maryland’s Opportunity Zones, ahead of Prince George’s County, which has 25, and Wicomico County, which has seven. Hogan said every jurisdiction in the state has at least one.
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