Governor Approves Opportunity Zones in Mason County

Special designation provides federal tax incentives for development in low-income areas – Two are in Mason County

Gov. Jay Inslee Friday approved 139 census tracts in 36 counties for “Opportunity Zone” status, enabling them to offer special federal tax breaks to encourage development and job creation. See a map and list of Washington’s newly designated Opportunity Zones. Here is a map showing the two Opportunity Zones in Mason County.

“Opportunity Zones have the potential to provide a much-needed boost to communities and target development projects, strengthening the local economies and creating jobs,” said Gov. Inslee.

The two tracts in Mason County are south of Shelton to the Thurston County Line and what is called “Shelton North” which includes the area around the Port of Shelton and the Shelton Hill development. MasonWebTV Powered by HCC spoke with Mason County Commissioner Kevin Shutty who worked to get the areas designated. 

“It allows investors to put money into distressed communities for development and they see an offset in their capital gains liability,” Commissioner Shutty explained in a phone interview. “It’s a way to get some capital into projects in communities like ours that need to see some growth and development.”

“Opportunity Zone status could be a useful tool to help strengthen these communities by encouraging capital investment,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “While we had many more requests than available tracts, I believe we ended up with a good balance of urban-rural and economic development and housing opportunities.”

The Opportunity Zone program was a bipartisan proposal in Congress incorporated into in the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs act, allowing the governor of every state to designate up to 25 percent of eligible census tracts as Opportunity Zones. Investments made through special funds in these zones will be able to defer or eliminate federal taxes on capital gains.

To qualify for Opportunity Zone status, a census tract must have an individual poverty rate of at least 20 percent and median family income up to 80 percent of the area median. A total of 555 census tracts in Washington met the eligibility criteria, though only 139 could receive the designation. View the U.S. Treasury Department list of eligible tracts.

Commerce engaged stakeholders throughout the state to allocate designation of some tracts to counties and tribes, and develop an impartial competitive process for nominating other tracts.  As part of this process, the governor asked Director Bonlender to work with Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib and Treasurer Duane Davidson to develop a recommendation for a small portion of the tracts to help achieve the greatest possible economic impact and positive investment outcomes to strengthen communities.

“As strong as Washington’s economy is, there are still many communities that aren’t seeing the benefits of economic growth,” Habib said. “This federal designation will help drive private investments to regions across our state, enabling communities to leverage their untapped resources to bring jobs, housing, and critical development to every corner of Washington.”