Governor includes sections of county in Opportunity Zone program

West Virginia governor Jim Justice released a list on May 18 of 55 U.S. Census tracts that will be part of the state’s Opportunity Zone program.

The federal program encourages private investment in rural and low-income communities through tax credits for investors.

One census tract in Morgan County that includes the Town of Bath and sections of the county both north and south of downtown Berkeley Springs was approved for the investment program. According to a press release from the governor’s office, the tract includes areas that are part of the former Coolfont Resort and some “vacant commercial facilities” in the county.

Region 9 Development and Planning Director Bill Clark said Monday that he is waiting for some clarification from Charleston on the specific boundaries of the Opportunity Zone designation. Clark said he requested some additional tracts of land be included in Morgan County’s main zone, and he’s not sure if those will be in the program.

The Governor’s office didn’t respond by deadline to a request for more information about Morgan County’s designated areas.

According to Clark, the Opportunity Zone program is one way to attract investment and entrepreneurship in Morgan County and all of the other areas in West Virginia that have been accepted into the program. The designation remains in place for 10 years.

“I feel like it’s another tool to make us stand out,” he said.

Both the Morgan County Commission and the Town of Bath council wrote letters of support for the tax credit program and for parts of Morgan County to be included in it.

The West Virginia Department of Commerce has already made an effort to market the zones to potential investors.

“These Opportunity Zones will help to revitalize many areas across West Virginia and spur private investments that will create economic growth, new development and job opportunities for our citizens,” Governor Justice said.

According to U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s office, Opportunity Zones were created by a legislative provision co-sponsored by Senator Capito in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“These Opportunity Zones are yet another way tax reform is going to help West Virginians create jobs, drive economic growth, and attract investment in areas that need it most,” Senator Capito said in a press release about the announcement.