BERLIN – Berlin is one of 149 communities in Maryland that has been designated an Opportunity Zone by the state.
Ivy Wells, the town’s economic development director, advised municipal officials this week that the town was now an Opportunity Zone. The designation, according to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), is part of a nationwide initiative created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“The Opportunity Zone program allows Maryland to attract capital to energize the development of communities that have not traditionally seen private sector investment, and they will be a game-changer for Maryland,” said DHCD Secretary Kenneth C. Holt, in a news release. “I’m excited to establish these zones and further leverage private, nonprofit and public sector funds, providing new opportunities for housing, retail and business growth to fuel the state’s economic engine and create jobs.”
Wells said the program had just been created and little was known about it yet. In addition to Berlin, Snow Hill and the southern portion of Ocean City have also received the designation.
“This is brand new,” she said. “It’s basically tax incentives for economic development.”
Wells said she hoped to learn more about the program next week, as she’d been invited to the Maryland Opportunity Zone Conference in College Park July 31.
“I will find out more then,” she said, adding that she hadn’t been aware of the designation until she received an invitation to the conference. “I want to know the difference between an enterprise zone and the Opportunity Zone.”
She said it was too early to say just what the new program would do for Berlin.
“We didn’t have any say in this designation,” she said. “I’m finding out what it all means.”
According to a news release issued by the Department of Housing and Community Development, the 149 Opportunity Zone designations will be effective for 10 years.
“Opportunity Zones will feature a new federal tax incentive designed to drive long-term private investment to these distressed communities,” the release states. “Investors will be able to defer and even reduce their federal tax liability on the sale of assets if they place their gains into an Opportunity Fund, which will pool capital and support investments in small businesses and real estate within the Opportunity Zones in order to improve communities and the quality of life for residents.”
The program, according to DHCD, is designed to be flexible and will allow for different types of investments.