Wicker encouraged by tax law’s attention to community success

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 10, 2018

By Roger Wicker 

There are plenty of reasons for businesses to come to Mississippi, but the new tax law just added another one.  One hundred communities in our state have been designated as Qualified Opportunity Zones, which means those who choose to invest there will be eligible for tax relief.

The designation of these zones by the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service helps communities grow and add jobs.  The initiative will allow individuals and corporations to defer capital gains taxes by returning the proceeds in an Opportunity Fund.  The Opportunity Fund would directly capitalize businesses to grow the local economy and improve the quality of life for residents of the designated Opportunity Zones.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

I am glad the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” recognized the importance of cultivating job-creating development in our communities, particularly those in rural and impoverished areas. 

The creation of Qualified Opportunity Zones can ensure that investment goes to the areas that need it most. All of Mississippi’s nominated communities were awarded this advantageous designation.   

Tax incentives are not the only drivers of business growth in Mississippi.  We are home to a ready and skilled workforce across a number of different industry sectors.  The cost of living is low, and we know how to work together at the local, state, and federal levels to foster an environment in which job creators can succeed.  Tax relief further sweetens the deal.

The designation of our Qualified Opportunity Zones joins a number of revitalization efforts helping to bring about change across the state.  One is the long-awaited passenger rail stop in Marks. 

For more than two decades, this city and Quitman County have worked to restore this service, which could serve some 200,000 residents across a nine county region. 

I was pleased three years ago when a deal for the stop was reached by Quitman County officials, Amtrak, and Canadian National Railway. 

I was honored to participate in the stop’s ribbon-cutting this week.

Two other recently announced projects that promise to generate major community benefits are happening on our Gulf Coast.  One is the plan for a pedestrian and bus bridge in downtown Gulfport, which recently received a $2.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to support its early planning and design.  Once the bridge is completed over Highway 90, visitors and residents will have access to Jones Park and the Mississippi Aquarium from Gulfport’s Multimodal Transportation Center.

Likewise, in Pascagoula, Ingalls Shipbuilding has announced a plan to restore its east bank shipbuilding facilities.  The site, which was home to the original Ingalls shipyard, was damaged after Hurricane Katrina.  Reopening this site will enable our state’s largest private employer to provide a greater shipbuilding capacity when our country needs it. 

Pursuant to my SHIPS Act, it is now the official policy of the United States to achieve a 355-ship Navy, and skilled Mississippians will be on the frontlines of this mission.  I am glad Ingalls has decided to continue its investment in our Gulf Coast.

These designations, plans, and progress points are encouraging for our state and our local communities. 

With better transportation options, business incentives, and development projects, Mississippians will have more opportunities for work and greater access to services they need.