Williamsport and Towanda may have a new ‘opportunity’

They are fittingly called Opportunity Zones.

And hopefully, the legislation enabling them will create opportunities where there presently are none in Williamsport and Towanda.

The new Opportunity Zone program was created with Congressional approval in December of the tax reform/jobs act.

It’s geared to bringing investment to low-income neighborhoods by allowing private investors to receive tax benefits on unrealized capital gains by investing those gains in qualified census tracts.

And that’s where Williamsport and Towanda come into the equation.

Both places possess areas that either have poverty rates of at least 20 percent or median family incomes of no more than 80 percent of statewide or metropolitan area family incomes.

Gov. Tom Wolf designated 300 tracts based on factors including economic data and recommendations and Williamsport and Towanda are among them.

Williamsport in particular has several low-income areas that need attention. In many cases, there is nothing in the city’s various budgets, including the existing community development budget, to provide that attention.

These areas have infrastructure and housing needs, among other things, that have not been met in recent years. Perhaps incentivizing private investors is the way to get those needs met.

The Opportunity Zone program calls for federal approval of the designations by mid-May, followed by rule-making to determine how funds are created and how businesses, developers and financial institutions can invest in qualified zones.

It’s a somewhat tedious process.

But if it can partner private investment with problem-solving in low-income areas, the legislation will be worth it.

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