New federal program called 'opportunity zones' aims to help low income areas along the Grand Strand

New federal program called 'opportunity zones' aims to help low income areas along the Grand Strand

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A new federal program called "opportunity zones" is part of President Trump's 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It's aimed to help low income areas of the Grand Strand geared for wage growth and business investments. There are 13 areas along the Grand Strand submitted to the governor that could qualify; four of them are in Myrtle Beach city limits. In order to qualify, the zones are set based on poverty and income. The governor of each state can designate no more than a quarter of the qualifying areas.

Myrtle Beach city spokesperson Mark Kruea said one of these zones is the downtown business district.  He said this would give private investors a reason and incentive to come spend their money here because they'll save money years down the road.

"It's designed to encourage private investment in areas which are struggling. It's either a low income or is just not doing well economically, and it gives those private investors a break after a certain period of time on their capital gains taxes - so they make an investment in the area and down the road, they don't have to pay the capital gains taxes. So it's a better deal for them, plus it's a good deal for the local community because you get more private investment," Kruea said.

If the zones succeed, they could help revitalize neighborhoods and towns that are starved for investment.

In a letter to Governor Henry McMaster, Congressman Tom Rice says three of the five most underserved counties in South Carolina are within the Pee Dee area.
He says those counties are Dillon, Marion, and Marlboro and have some of the highest unemployment rates and lowest average incomes in the state. He also says Horry and Georgetown counties have unemployment rates above the state average. Congressman Rice believes this incentive can make a big difference for the area.

Well it's really important for the Grand Strand and the Pee Dee. This area was very invested in textiles and tobacco and other manufacturing 40 years ago.  A lot of those jobs have been off shore and they are not going to come back. So, I'm trying everything I know how to do to attract investment to create jobs and opportunity for folks. Particularly Marion, Dillon and Marlboro counties, three of the poorest counties in the state, double the state's unemployment rate, two-thirds of the state's median income, declining populations… and I'm just tired of it, and I know the folks in these counties are tired of it too. But, we have some really good things going… and one of them is the Dillon Inland Port that will create thousands of jobs. That opportunity zone designation fits hand in glove with the Dillon Inland Port.  Also I-73 will hit I-95, very close to the Dillon Inland Port.. infrastructure equals opportunity. I-73 runs right through Malboro, Dillon and Marion counties and it will create opportunities that these people haven't had in decades.

Governor McMaster's deadline to make the recommendations is on March 21, with the opportunity of a one time 30 day extension.

Copyright 2018 WMBF News. All rights reserved.