E.D.D.C. leaders brief federal lawmakers on Opportunity Zones impact
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Leaders of the Erie Downtown Development Corporation were back in the nation’s capital on Tuesday.
They’re attending meetings with top lawmakers, some of whom are demanding more oversight and information about opportunity zones.
E.D.D.C. Chief Executive Officer John Persinger was among a group of private sector leaders from around the country to meet with members of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, including with U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, who is the ranking member of the Ways & Means Oversight Subcommittee.
The closed-door bipartisan meeting is meant to give lawmakers a better idea of how the provision in the 2017 federal tax reform law is being implemented nearly two years later.
Supporters argue Opportunity Zones will inject millions of private dollars into projects such as housing and markets into low-income cities nationwide. Critics say the program is a tax haven for the rich who can avoid paying capital gains taxes by investing into these projects.
Persinger tells us the E.D.D.C. has raised $27 million in private capital so far for buying and improving property because of the law. His big selling point to lawmakers: E.D.D.C.-acquired properties generate $111,000 in local tax revenue, and could be worth $1.5 million in the next five years as the group acquires more property.
“That’s what is encouraging about this program is that it’s finally capturing local wealth and getting to be invested back into the community,” Persinger said.
“We’re seeing all this great enthusiasm into cities that people pretty much walked away from years ago,” Kelly said. “Investors now are looking and saying you know what, I’m willing to invest there because it’s going to have a positive end to it.”
Even though this is a federal law passed largely by Republicans, governors and local leaders of both parties are the ones who designate Opportunity Zones. In all, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf designated eight Opportunity Zones in the City of Erie.