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Colorado Springs ahead of curve on Opportunity Zones

Posted at 5:51 PM, Sep 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-13 20:37:26-04

The White House sees Colorado Springs as a national leader when it comes to taking advantage of new Opportunity Zone tax incentives to spur economic growth. The program was part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Scott Turner, the Director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council during a visit here Friday that the city is "well ahead of the curve," when it comes to putting that money to work.

The goal of the program is to improve the lives of people in neighborhoods left behind by the economic recovery by encouraging investment in new businesses and developments.

"Long after we're gone, this can have an impact that literally can improve people's lives," Turner said.

The primary incentive is a reduction in capital gains taxes, which are levied on investor earnings. For example, if someone sells shares of a stock that's gone up in value, those earnings can be taxed at a rate of 15 to 20 percent, depending on their value.

Investors can lower their tax bill by temporarily saving their money in Opportunity Funds. Those funds can then lend money to new or established businesses that are expanding in designated Opportunity Zones.

"It's really a very creative mechanism and I think pretty ingenious, I really do," said Mayor John Suthers.

There are eight Opportunity Zones designated in Colorado Springs and Fountain. The city quick to develop the framework necessary for local investors and developer to start use the program.

The new Marriott/Westin hotel under construction downtown was one of the first projects to make use Opportunity Zone financing. Another hotel project planned for the Colorado Springs Airport also uses Opportunity Zone financing.

"What I hope is going to happen is we're going to see a lot more national funds come looking for great places to invest and I can't think of a better one than Colorado Springs," Mayor Suthers said.

He told reporters that he thinks the program could also help with the city's affordable housing crisis by encouraging additional investment into construction of multifamily units.