County submits ‘Opportunity Zone’ proposals for Appleton, Benson areas

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Swift County’s Rural Development Authority (RDA) submitted two tracts identified by the federal government as potential economic “Opportunity Zones” to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton for consideration earlier this month.

“Opportunity Zones are a new community development program established by Congress in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income and urban communities nationwide,” RDA Executive Director Jennifer Frost told county commissioners.

The zones encourage private sector investment in economic development projects by offering investors the possibility of greatly reduced capital gains taxes if they put their money to work in the Opportunity Zones.

In all, there were 509 tracts identified in Minnesota that were potential opportunity zones. However, they were split into two categories. There were 250 primary zones identified that were recognized having higher poverty and low income issues then the other 264.

Further, just 123 of the census tracts identified in the state can be chosen by the governor for the opportunity zone designation.

In Swift County, two areas were identified as potential opportunity zones.

The first includes the cities of Appleton and Holloway, as well as Appleton, Edison, Shible, Moyer, Hegbert and most of Fairfield townships. The second includes the City of Benson and limited rural areas adjacent to the city.

The Appleton area tract was included in the lower 250, ranking it among the primary areas for consideration. The Benson area was in the lower 264, but still identified as a potential investment area.

The lower 250 communities chosen from the 509 may be the most distressed, but many may have nothing in the works that they can build off of through the opportunity zones program. Communities where there is investment potential and realistic chance for a positive impact could have a chance of being selected as a result.

Benson’s poverty rate is actually a little higher than Appleton’s, but its median family income is significantly higher – that took it out of the 250 that were considered the most distressed.

 

Benson Rating
Median Family Income 78.95
Census Tract Poverty Rate 16.30%
   
Appleton Rating
Median Family Income 65.06
Census Tract Poverty Rate 14.90%

“Because Swift County has only one tract in the 250 lowest income and only one tract outside the 250, Swift County does not need to prioritize one tract over the other,” Frost told commissioners. “Both tracts will be prioritized first in their relative categories.”

It is estimated that 100 tracts will be chosen from the 250 lowest income tracts. That gives the Appleton tract a 40 percent chance of being chosen, she said. The remaining 23 tracts will be selected from those outside the 250, which includes Benson. However, only 9.5 percent of eligible tracts will be chosen in this category, Frost pointed out.

Swift County’s application for the Appleton and Benson areas is accompanied by letters from each community’s economic development authority as well as the RDA. A letter is also submitted on the county board’s behalf. Both Benson and Appleton city officials helped put together information for the application....

 

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