Southeastern Regional Opportunity Zone Summit highlights Mississippi’s story

Updated: Oct. 1, 2019 at 7:52 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Whether it’s a run-down or overgrown property or a business on its last leg, Opportunity Zones create the chance for new life and, most importantly, new money to circulate back into those areas. And it’s something Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs jumped at the chance to utilize.

“Best economic tool to create vitality and, more importantly, to create more jobs and to save jobs,” said Mayor Flaggs.

Here’s how it works: federal tax breaks are offered to investors willing to redevelop under-served communities over the next ten years. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has traveled to Mississippi previously to see how communities like Vicksburg are using the incentives. He was back in Jackson Tuesday for the Southeastern Regional Opportunity Zone Summit.

“Spirit of generosity," said Secretary Carson. "That’s something these opportunity zones are all about. We want to equip millions of Americans with skills of self-sufficiency so they can be better housed, better educated and better employed.”

Vicksburg’s first use of the program was for a sawmill that was in danger of closing and forcing more than 100 people out of a job. It’s now been sold to a new investor. There are similar plans for another plant and plans for low-income housing.

“We like to call it workforce housing," noted Governor Phil Bryant. "But it will be as we build here in the state of Mississippi tri-plexes, duplexes, they’ll have sidewalks and lighting. It will be in an opportunity zone to enhance those that are working due to the jobs coming back to their community. As I said, I believe working people in the state of Mississippi deserve an adequate place to live.”

Other cities hope the incentives will spur development in areas that have longed stalled on projects.

There’s a good chance that investments are being planned in your area as there are 100 designated opportunity zones in Mississippi now.

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