Opportunity abounds when government gets out of the way

ERIE, Pennsylvania — [Anyone] who has said it would be impossible to transform one of the poorest ZIP codes in the country into a role model for achieving economic prosperity has never listened to Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina discuss the promise of Opportunity Zones. And they have definitely underestimated the determination of Erie’s local civic, foundation, and business leaders to not give up the ship.

Last month, despite all of the economic obstacles that 2020 has thrown at them, the Boston-based investment firm Arctaris, along with significant investments from Erie Insurance as well as the Erie Community Foundation, committed to making over $40 million worth of Opportunity Zone investments here in this postindustrial city that shares the name of the lake whose shores it borders.

Opportunity Zones were created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. They’re designed to attract development to impoverished areas that under normal circumstances would never be able to attract significant investments, Scott explained in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

“As a kid who grew up in poverty in a single-parent household mired in lots of challenges, I really looked back on my experience as a kid growing up and realize that there’s so many talented individuals in my communities that were suffering because opportunities never stopped by the neighborhood and too few of us escaped the neighborhood,” Scott said. “My thought was if we could take the Jack Kemp model of enterprise zones, convert it, make it focused on the private sector, perhaps we could accelerate the opportunity creation in the poorest ZIP codes in America, and Erie is a classic example of that.”

Scott said that without the Opportunity Zone, what is happening in Erie would take 30 years. “Now, they say it will take five years.”

Scott said he had to work long and hard to make sure the Opportunity Zones were part of the 2017 tax cut. “Four years, four years, and a lot of hard work, a lot of pain, a lot of misery, a lot of conversations that went nowhere — a lot of people not understanding the concept. When you’re in the government and you’re talking about not using government dollars to solve problems, it confuses people,” he said.

“It’s not like we’re confusing. We spent $7 trillion trying to solve poverty as a nation, and we didn’t do a very good job of it.”

Full article here.