Citizens to discuss Opportunity Zone with city leaders

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – The public is invited to voice their opinions about what to invest in Opportunity Zones in the city limits. Opportunity Zones came about through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Originally proposed by Representative Tim Scott, Opportunity Zones are investment tools to encourage long-term investments in low-income and rural communities.

In Aiken County, there are three opportunity zones. Two in North Augusta and one in the City of Aiken. The one in Aiken lies in the northern section of the city.

There are about 6,000 people living in the zone but unfortunately, the poverty rate sits at 41%. Just above 50% of people who live in the zone are working.

Aiken city officials and investors are aiming to change that. They want to see people back at work. They say they can provide prosperity for people by getting businesses to invest in the opportunity zone. If a business does, there are tax incentives.

“I’m not concerned about the brand name or the sign that goes out front. A lot of this is about giving incentives to small companies that maybe nobody has even heard of but that will create jobs for the people who live in an area of Aiken that could use a few more jobs,” said Assistant to the City Manager for Business Development Tim O’Briant.

An area that is being looked at is the old Aiken County Hospital.

O’Briant explained, “We have a proposal to build a 100 room hotel and conference center. And about 150 market-rate apartments there so that would be a great shot in the arm for the community. A job creator in the northside of Aiken.”

The Opportunity Zone meeting starts September 18 at 6:00 p.m. at the Lessie B. Price Senior and Youth Center ( 841 Edgefield Ave, NW, Aiken, SC). The meeting should get wrapped up around 8:00 p.m.