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What are Opportunity Zones?
The Opportunity Zones program encourages long-term investment and job creation in low-income areas of the state, by allowing investors to re-invest unrealized capital gains in designated census tracts. On April 20, 2018, Governor Bruce Rauner submitted the allowable 327 of the 1,305 qualifying census tracts to the federal government for inclusion in the Opportunity Zone program.
How were the Opportunity Zones chosen?
Methodology and Data Used for Opportunity Zone Designations
Based on the guidelines established in the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 - Section 1400Z-1, page 130, Goverrnor Rauner was eligible to nominate 25% (327) of the state’s 1,305 qualifying low-income census tracts as Opportunity Zones. Governor Rauner, with feedback from many stakeholders, including local units of government, Economic Development Organizations, Chambers of Commerce and community organizations, engaged in a 3-phase approach to identify and nominate the 327 Opportunity Zones that will have the greatest economic impact on the state’s most needy citizens.
The Opportunity Zone 3-Phase Methodology:
Phase 1: Need-Based Indexing
One of the strongest predictors of an area’s potential for future growth is existing poverty. Areas with high rates of poverty and unemployment often have structural assets that are under-utilized. Governor Rauner’s need-based model incorporated criteria that aligns human capital under-utilization, social needs of low-income communities and economic growth opportunities.
In order to most effectively utilize Opportunity Zone designations to activate Illinois’ under-leveraged resources, qualifying tracts were examined according to the following criteria:
- Poverty Rates
- Unemployment Rates
- Total Number of Children in Poverty
- Violent Crime Rate
Phase 2: Equitable Distribution
In order to ensure a statewide beneficial impact, Governor Rauner used a geographical distribution method:
- Provided each of the 88 counties at least one zone that ranks highest on needs-based index
- Limited each town/city to no more than 5 zones - outside the City of Chicago
Phase 3: Local Consideration
Governor Rauner’s administration received requests and suggestions from government and community entities throughout Illinois. Each was reviewed and helped informed the need-based criteria, statewide distribution and final tract selections.
The following data sources and geographic attributes were considered in establishing the designated tracts:
- Qualified Census Tract (QCT) designations: Qualifying Opportunity Zones were evaluated by existing and/or previous projects receiving incentives under Federal or State grant programs, tax credit programs, TIF districts and/or if they are in an Enterprise Zone.
- Dunn and Bradstreet business listings: These are used to delineate different types of business activity, including manufacturing concentrations (automotive, agricultural, and other industrial activity, retail and commercial centers, and other such nodes).
- Natural and/or man-made amenities (Port Districts/Lakes): Tracts with these attributes (which include lake/river frontage) are generally attractive for investments and entrepreneurial activity.
- Existing Infrastructure: Tracts with existing infrastructure (i.e. empty buildings) can be used to build from rather than necessitating new construction. In more rural areas existing infrastructure is important as building materials for new construction can be difficult to procure.
- Crime Rates: Tracts located in one or more of the higher crime statistics categories were evaluated in conjunction with the above criteria. Crime statistics included a total crime index, as well as the individual assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, murder, persona crime, property crime, rape and robbery indexes.
- Investment Longevity: Are the qualifying tracts going to spur long-term investment not just in the ten years for the program, but for the 20 and 30 years beyond?
- Equity and Inclusion: Will economic development provide benefits to all economic levels in the qualifying census tract(s)?
More Information and Resources
The United States Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service have not completed their rulemaking on the Opportunity Zone program at this time. The below information will provide more details on the program.
For specific questions regarding the individual Opportunity Zones, please contact the local municipality in the census tract(s).
Opportunity Zones Contact Information
For more information about the Opportunity Zone program, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.