A federal program, credited to S.C. Senator Tim Scott, has $3 trillion to spend on rehabilitating poor and rundown areas, and state officials want South Carolina to get its share of the money.
Called Opportunity Zones, the areas include large sections of Conway, Myrtle Beach, Aynor and Loris and can result in large financial benefits for people who choose to invest.
Mark Elliott, managing partner of the S.C. Opportunity Fund program, told a group of Conway Chamber of Commerce members Friday morning that the program is just beginning to take off. Although Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed in 2017, it took another two years for all of the details to be worked out.
Devin Parks, director of economic development and government relations with the Conway Chamber of Commerce, says many Conway areas are included in the Opportunity Zones, including just about anything north of Coastal Carolina University, areas along U.S. 378, most of Downtown Conway and around the old Grainger Steam Plant.
He says City of Conway officials are well aware of the program and that he, Conway Downtown Alive director Hillary Howard and Assistant Deputy City Administrator John Rogers recently attended a seminar on the program hoping to get Conway involved.
Elliott says the program is designed to have a three-fold impact improving the social, financial and environmental qualities of an area.
Elliott pointed to a successful program in downtown Hartsville where investors bought an abandoned school, remodeled it and turned it into 40 apartments. They were also able to get an historical designation for the building to make the tax benefits even greater.
He says some Opportunity Zones are cluttered with abandoned theatres and old hotels that were once the heartbeats of downtown areas.
The process starts when someone has a capital gain from selling stock, real estate or a business. The seller then has 180 days to decide if he wants to invest in an established Opportunity Zone or set up one of his own.
He then has 30 months to invest in and improve residential property. He has 62 months if he’s rehabilitating a business.
The biggest benefit, Elliott says, is if he keeps the property for 10 years, he pays no taxes on his financial gain.
With 300 people a day moving into South Carolina, Elliott expects the impact of Opportunity Zones to be huge.
He said officials searched census tracts looking for poorer areas that are in bad condition, but not too bad.
He’s how the pattern works: find a house or business, refurbish it, rent it, refinance it and then repeat.
Elliott believes the new program will be the biggest change in the way people invest in his lifetime.
Josh Kay, director of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, attended Friday’s meeting, introduced Elliott and showed enthusiasm for the new idea.
Elliott also pointed to a book, New Localism: How Cities Thrive in the Age of Populism by Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak, and How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand.
Kelli James, executive vice president of the Conway Chamber of Commerce, says she sees the program as a wonderful opportunity and hopes to see local investors participate.
Call Elliott, a Greenville resident, at (864) 301-6276 or email Parks at the Conway Chamber at email@example.com.