MARION COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina Congressman Tom Rice joined with Marion County leaders to talk about the benefits of the Opportunity Zones, the recent federal program that is part of President Donald Trump's 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Rice believes the two Opportunity Zones awarded for Marion County will bring long-term investments to the area and help complement other economic development initiatives underway in the Pee Dee Region.
According to Marion County Economic Development Commission leaders, the unemployment rate in Marion County is 6.6 percent. Rice said, "This area hasn't had this kind of hope opportunity in a long time and I think these three things together will restore that." Rice explained what those three things are.
The new Dillon Inland port, which Rice said is already attracting 1,100 confirmed jobs, the future I-73 which he said he is a huge advocate for and the new two designated opportunity zones in Marion County will all help lead a generational shift in the Pee Dee area.
Rice spoke in front of MCEDC, and Marion County and City officials Tuesday while traveling around the Seventh Congressional District. Marion County submitted four Opportunity Zone recommendations to Congress based on their poverty and income level and were awarded two designated zones where the unemployment rate is around 18 percent. "The longer they leave the money in that impoverished area and lift that impoverished area up, the better the tax advantage is, the longer they can defer it and eventually if they can leave it for ten years, they don't have to pay taxes at all," Rice added.
Rice said three Opportunity Zones were awarded in Dillon County and two zones in Marlboro County which are the impoverished areas in the Pee Dee. Rice believes there is need for people to invest in these areas, and said the new tax incentive is just another tool to attract industries. "If they don't want to pay taxes on that money or give a significant part to the government they can invest in one of these areas around the Dillon inland port or these areas in Marion county and avoid paying these taxes and earn money on the taxes they would have paid to the government, when they invest in the businesses here, those business will employ people," Rice stated.
The passage of Opportunity Zones is why Rice went to Congress, he said. His mission is to bring more and more jobs to his district. "America was built on opportunity. 'The Land of Opportunity' is my favorite nickname for this country and the hope and promise that each generation if they work hard and are motivated, can do a little bit better than the last generation. I think unfortunately in recent years they kind of got away from that."
South Carolina has designated opportunity zones throughout the state, but Rice said there is still a funding phase to complete before they're implemented which is expected to take place Summer 2018.