With a designation as an Opportunity Zone, employers who create two or more jobs in the zone will receive $3,500 per job, per year for five years toward income tax and state withholding. This is the lowest job creative threshold of any job tax credit program.
The Opportunity Zones are part of the 1955 Urban Redevelopment Act. Qualifying areas have 15 percent or greater poverty rates and are labeled with the terminology of “blight and slum.”
Some residents have voiced concerns about their communities being negatively portrayed.
“This unfortunate language would not be used if given a choice,” said DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis. “The Urban Redevelopment Act includes language that is outdated. This language, however, has been used by many other jurisdictions including the cities of Atlanta, Roswell, Alpharetta, Marietta and East Point, and Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties in order to obtain Opportunity Zone status.”
Ellis added that he, too, has had to overlook the language and focus on the benefits the designation of an Opportunity Zone would mean to DeKalb.
The Department of Community Affairs credits Opportunity Zones with creating more than 3,000 new jobs, $325 million in private investment, 13,000 business licenses issued and 4,500 building permits issued between 2008 and 2011.
“This will give us another tool in our economic development tool kit to create jobs and growth to further the entrepreneurial spirit in DeKalb County,” said District 3 Commissioner Larry Johnson.
An example of how the plan works — if Small Business ABC expands its business and creates 10 new jobs in a DeKalb County Opportunity Zone: 10 jobs x $3,500 x five years = $175,000 in tax credits. If Company XYZ relocates its corporate headquarters from New York to a DeKalb County Opportunity Zone creating 500 jobs: 500 jobs x $3,500 x five years = $8,750,000 in tax credits.
The county has targeted the following communities or areas as Opportunity Zones: Bouldercrest, Stone Mountain, Panthersville, Royal Atlanta, Wesley Chapel, I-85, Snapfinger Woods, Kensington, Lithonia Industrial, Zonolite, Stonecrest, Montreal Industrial, Rock Mountain, Ponce de Leon and Tilson.
By moving forward with the Urban Redevelopment Plan, DeKalb will be able to leverage the county’s many assets and other growth opportunities. With increased opportunities, the county has the chance to diminish the current 8.5 percent unemployment rate.
The next steps in the process include the DeKalb Office of Economic Development filing an application with the state of Georgia by the end of second quarter 2013. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs requests 45 to 60 days for application review before granting designation of an Opportunity Zone.