How will Opportunity Zones be determined in Montana?

Governor Steve Bullock has directed the Montana Department of Commerce (MDOC) to research and develop criteria to help guide Opportunity Zone designations. Eligible jurisdictions will use the Opportunity Zone Proposal application to nominate tracts. Additionally, the Opportunity Zone website provides a drop-down list of eligible Census tracts as they relate to the jurisdictional boundaries of a city, town, county, or tribe. Eligible applicants can submit proposals to MDOC for as many eligible Census tracts that fall within their jurisdictional boundaries or service area; however, each jurisdiction must prioritize any nominated tracts. Eligible applicants are cities, towns, counties, tribal governments, CRDCs, or lead economic development organizations that have an eligible Census tract within their boundary.

After collecting application responses from eligible applicants, an interdisciplinary review committee will make nomination recommendations to the governor based on the potential for development, demonstrated need and the existing plans presented in each application. Designated Census tracts demonstrating the highest degree of probability for development currently or within the 10-year designation period will be given favorable preference. Preference may be given to communities participating in the Montana Main Street Program or that have past, or expected capacity for housing and small business development.

It is critical that applicants clearly identify how the selected Census tracts will leverage other resources, utilize existing economic development areas such as current Targeted Economic Development Districts, Tax Increment Financing Districts, Urban Renewal Districts or will enhance other local planned or existing development. The governor will make final recommendations and submit the nominated tracts to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Opportunity and Need

The market-oriented approach of Opportunity Zone designations is limited by the private investment interest within a designated community and does not guarantee economic development. Capitalizing upon an Opportunity Zone designation will depend partially on the area’s existing and future ability to foster private economic growth in their community.The benefits of this market approach will be realized most by communities with the potential for growth.Though it is important to direct investment into areas that are best situated to cultivate economic growth, it is also necessary to realize the potential this program has to help areas in need of economic revitalization.

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