The U.S. Economic Development Adminstration offered the following description of this project:
"This EDA investment funds the Flight Works Alabama Aviation Education Center in a designated Opportunity Zone in Mobile County, Alabama. This investment will provide an apprenticeship program to assist Flight Works Alabama graduates with an opportunity to attain full-time employment in the manufacturing and aerospace industry. The goal of the project is to build an aviation hub that will provide the ability to be competitive in a global market, create stable long-term jobs, and contribute to economic diversification in a region impacted by Hurricane Irma."
Opportunity zones are governor-selected areas in economically distressed communities where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. An opportunity zone fund allows wealthy investors to put off paying capital gains on sales of certain assets while also allowing their investments to grow tax free as long as 90% of the money is invested in one of these opportunity zones. If an investor leaves his money in an opportunity zone fund for 7 or more years, his or her total capital gains is reduced by 15%. Furthermore, if they hold the investment for 10 years, all of the gains realized from that investment are tax free. For instance, if an individual has a $1 million gain on a stock sale, this investor can invest that into an opportunity zone fund within 6 months of the sale and avoid paying capital gains tax on that amount for that year. If they keep that money in the fund for seven years, they will pay capital gains on $850,000 as opposed to the original million. Along with that, any appreciation in the investment is received tax free so long as money is held in the fund for 10 years.
Because opportunity zones were selected by each state’s governor as opposed to being done by a computer algorithm, allegations of favoritism have long plagued the program. Most notably, a non-economic distressed community in Nevada was designated an opportunity zone after Treasury Secretary Mnuchin seemed to intervene allowing his friend and former ex-con Michael Milken to potentially profit from some investments he has in that area. Both men have denied any wrongdoing and while Mnuchin has said he was actively involved in the process, he didn’t know his friend had any investments in the area.
There have been several proposals sent by both Democrats and Republicans to try to reform the program. The program designates entire census blocks as opportunity zones and there are no provisions in the law that mandate that any of the money spent has to help low income individuals.
The capital gains provision is currently set to expire on December 31, 2026, meaning anything invested into an opportunity zone fund at this point will not make it to that seven year threshold allowing investors to reduce that amount on their capital gains sale by 15%, but it will still allow them to reduce their amount by 10% as long as they keep their money held for five years.