Libby named 1 of 25 ‘opportunity zones’ in state

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The City of Libby recently was nominated as one of 25 “Opportunity Zones” in Montana, making it eligible to benefit from an economic development program targeting low-income community census tracts nationwide.

How Libby will benefit from the program — established by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — remains to be seen because it is still being developed, said Tina Oliphant, executive director of the Kootenai River Development Council.

Oliphant presented the idea to the Lincoln County Commission at its Feb. 28 meeting.

Oliphant told the three commissioners the program is intended to encourage long-term investment — 5-10 years, she said — in low-income communities by providing a federal tax incentive for reinvesting unrealized capital gains into “Opportunity Funds.”

Such reinvestment could include downtown revitalization, workforce development, affordable housing, infrastructure, and business startup and expansion, according to a Department of Commerce news release.

“What we don’t know is who manages (these) opportunity funds,” Oliphant said Friday. “It could very well be something similar to a new market tax credit environment or other programs of the Department of Treasury funds that have stipulations that either the use of the fund or where it’s invested or a combination.”

Oliphant said she doesn’t know when program details might be worked out.

Libby was one of 106 eligible tracts in Montana. According to an April 20 Montana Department of Commerce news release, the state received “more than 60” applications for the special designation, from which Gov. Steve Bullock could submit only 25 to the U.S. Treasury.

The other 24 nomination census tracts include those within seven Indian reservations and cities including Kalispell, Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, Helena and Butte.

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