Chillicothe Gazette – Chris Balusik, May 16, 2018
Three locations in Ross County have been targeted for participation in a new federal program designed to make development more attractive in lower-income areas.
The federal Tax Cut and Jobs Act approved in December carried with it the ability to create Opportunity Zones, defined by the Internal Revenue Service as economically distressed areas “where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.” That tax treatment is what would make those areas more attractive for economic development opportunities.
After passage of the legislation, the Ohio Development Services Agency reached out to local municipalities, county commissioners and development professionals asking for suggested areas where Opportunity Zones may be a good fit. The agency said it received more than 100 calls, 238 online submissions and several letters of support for various locations in the state.
Some of those came from Ross County, and three of the tracts received approval. The first covers 7.34 square miles and runs roughly from the Ohio 207 connector in the north to just south of Main Street downtown. The tract encompasses all of Bridge Street and extends north along Ohio 159. The second covers 5.4 square miles encompassing much of the southern portion of Chillicothe and running south along U.S. 50. The third, at 84.36 square miles, covers a large portion of the northwest corner of the county north of the U.S. 35 corridor.
“During the application process, we asked ourselves which areas would be most suited for future development and/or additional investment,” said Tammy Eallonardo, economic development director for Greater Chillicothe & Ross County Development.
A big selling point of the first selected tract was that it included the corridor containing Kenworth Truck Co. and Adena Medical Center, Eallonardo said. That corridor, which has already seen some significant growth, is expected to see more as the result of a planned road widening project and as Kenworth looks to entice its parts suppliers to move closer to production facilities.
The second tract includes industrial areas in the east end of the city, and Eallonardo notes that “Glatfelter Paper, LKQ Distribution and the former Wearever/Alcoa building are located in this tract.”
The third tract, which is a large triangular area that includes such areas as Austin, Clarksburg and Andersonville, is only a portion of what was originally requested. The original request included the Gateway Interchange Industrial Park that is already under development and that Eallonardo said would be heavily marketed once expansion of some road work is done. Even so, the third tract selected also contains some development opportunities.
“Industries such as Rocal Inc. will be able to take advantage of the program, and it may also lead to new development in areas that are currently farmland,” she said.
Because the Opportunity Zone concept is a new one, development officials are awaiting further information about the program before they go out and market the zones to developers. At its most basic level, investment in the zones would provide a number of tax benefits for the investor.
Eallonardo said while waiting for more details on the program to emerge from the Treasury Department, early signs show the program should benefit Ross County.
“The win is significant for us because it is the first in a concerted effort to uncover and take advantage of grant programs and funding streams that will make Ross County more attractive to new developers and to current businesses who wish to increase their footprint,” she said.
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