Opportunity zones hope to attract small businesses to Georgia

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced several counties and cities that will have federally approved economic opportunity zones.

"Small business creates large business, " said Brian Anderson, president of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce. "If you can get a cluster started, then that spreads."

It's a spread the federal government hopes to spark after passing the recent tax cuts and jobs act through Congress.

Muscogee, Troup and Stewart counties received new "economic opportunity zones," in a statement released earlier this month by Governor Nathan Deal's office.

The goal of installing "E.O.Z's" is to attract investors and entrepreneurs, who could create small businesses in areas with below average income. One of the incentives for investors would be deferring the federal taxes on their businesses.

Anderson said the neighborhoods inside most, if not all zones across the state, have a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher among the population.

"I live in that area. I don't have a car, because I don't have the means. But, " Anderson said. "If I can walk to that location, I can get a job. The pay rate I'm getting, and the benefits I'm getting may take me out of what's considered impoverishment."

An example of a location in Muscogee County's new E.O.Z would be the Five Points area along Cusseta Road.

Because these few blocks now form part of the newest economic opportunity zone in Columbus, anyone who wants to open a business, whether it's restaurant or dry cleaners, will be eligible for thousands of federal tax credit dollars up to $3,500.

"If [an investor goes] there," Anderson said, "you get this extra money to help sustain your business."

To qualify for the incentive, a business owner would only have to hire a minimum of five employees. Anderson says the hiring threshold is lower than usual but mentioned there are more incentives for entrepreneurs to move into opportunity zones.

"I, [as an investor], can also get these against my tax liability and, or my withholding tax," he said. "So if you're a small business, that added value of cash flow is important."

In Georgia, the Department of Community Affairs will now oversee the development of all federally-designated E.O.Zs. Part of Gov.

Deal's recent statement also said both rural and urban communities will have opportunity zones, which will exist for the next 10 years, to allow both small and large businesses to invest in the local economy.

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