INDIANAPOLIS — A region of DeKalb County has been chosen as one the state’s first six Rural Opportunity Zones.
Wednesday, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, in partnership with the Purdue Center for Regional Development/Extension Community Development, announced the six sites that will receive technical assistance and capacity-building support as part of the Rural Opportunity Zone Initiative.
“The goal with this initiative is to equip the leadership in rural opportunity zones with necessary materials to attract capital to their designated areas,” said Jodi Golden, executive director of OCRA. “By maximizing their potential, these sites will be positioned to be competitive with opportunity zones from around the nation.”
The selected counties are Crawford, Daviess, DeKalb, Knox, Newton and Switzerland.
DeKalb County’s opportunity zone takes in the western half of Auburn, eastern half of Garrett and rural areas between Cedar Creek and S.R. 327.
On the east side of Interstate 69, it runs from C.R. 36 on the north to Auburn Drive on the south. On the west side of the interstate, it stretches from C.R. 40 on the north to C.R. 56 on the south.
“This will give us some tools to market it as an opportunity zone … to people who have money to finance and people who want to build projects within that zone,” Auburn Mayor Norm Yoder said Wednesday.
He said investors and builders can save on capital gains taxes for projects inside the zone.
Other opportunity zones are in larger cities, and Yoder said the OCRA program is designed to give rural areas a level playing field.
“The big cities had resources … and they figured that the rural areas didn’t” to market their opportunity zones, Yoder said.
At first, Auburn and Garrett were designated as separate opportunity zones. Yoder said the two cities decided to combine them and work together through the DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership and its executive director, Anton King.
King said the partnership “is very thankful and excited to be a recipient of the grant to help boost any potential for projects in DeKalb County’s two opportunity zones.”
He added, “We’re looking forward to work with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Purdue Center for Regional Development. Our DeKalb County OZ Taskforce will work with both organizations and the DCEDP to encourage long-term private capital investment in our OZ’s. This adds another tool to our tool belt to spur economic growth in DeKalb County.”
A news release said the purpose of the initiative is to build the capacity of Opportunity Zones in rural Indiana to attract private, public and/or philanthropic sector investments that support locally driven priorities.
The program is funded by a Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the Indiana U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.
Last year, Gov. Eric Holcomb nominated 156 Indiana Opportunity Zones with the help of an advisory group from around the state. The Office of Community and Rural Affairs completed an initial assessment of the zones and determined 46 sites are rural opportunity zones.
“We are excited to work in partnership with the Office of Community and Rural Affairs in helping local Opportunity Zone sites pursue plans that place them on a path of economic progress,” said Bo Beaulieu, director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development. “Our hope is that these communities will become the model of how to bring about positive changes in areas that have experienced economic distress over the past decade.”
The goal of the Opportunity Zone initiative is to encourage long-term private capital investment in low-income urban and rural communities. The program offers long-term federal tax deferral on capital gains for investments in designated zones, with additional tax exclusion from new capital gains achieved from those investments.
Each site may receive support to include:
• guidance in establishing a task force;
• proprietary data products that profile types of properties in the area;
• assessment of key economic drivers;
• profiles of existing businesses and companies in the zone and surrounding areas;
• transportation infrastructure and connectivity;
• discovering the area’s community/economic development assets;
• suitability analysis;
• mapping of broadband services in the zone; and more.
More information is online at in.gov/ocra/2725.htm.