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What is an Opportunity Zone?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 established a new economic development program called Opportunity Zones designed to encourage long-term private investments in low-income communities. The program provides a federal tax incentive for taxpayers who reinvest unrealized capital gains into “Opportunity Funds,” which are specialized vehicles dedicated to investing in low-income areas called “Opportunity Zones.” 

The zones themselves are to be comprised of Low-Income Community Census tracts and designated by governors in every state and territory. The program has the potential to direct private capital toward distressed communities and serve as a catalyst for long-term, inclusive economic development. This may include downtown revitalization, workforce development, affordable housing, infrastructure, and business startup and expansion.  

Note: The U.S. Department of the Treasury has not completed it’s rulemaking on this program at this time and there have been periodic updates. All maps, lists and resources provided by the Montana Department of Commerce are for planning and application purposes only, and may be subject to change based upon final ruling. Additionally, the Montana Department of Commerce reserves the right to revise information contained on this website based upon changes to the federal regulations governing the program. Please check back to this page frequently for updates.

The State of Montana’s Role

The Governor of Montana may nominate up to 25 eligible Low-Income Community Census tracts for Opportunity Zone designation within the state. Census tracts are small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county with population sizes between 1,200 and 8,000. Their primary purpose is to provide a stable set of geographic units for the presentation of statistical data.

The State of Montana has 270 total census tracts. (Note that Opportunity Zones are defined by Census tracts, not by city or county boundaries. However, some census tracts in rural Montana may cover an entire county because of low population.) Of these tracts, 106* have been identified as Low-Income-Communities (LIC) based on the following criteria:

  • Tracts in which the poverty rate is at least 20 percent
  • or tracts in which the median family income does not exceed 80 percent of the statewide median family income if located outside of a metropolitan area
  • or tracts in which the median family income does not exceed 80 percent of the statewide median family income or the metropolitan area median family income, whichever is higher. 

*When determining the number of eligible Census tracts, the Montana Department of Commerce used data and maps from the CDFI Fund web page and the Opportunity360 web page. Due to slight data inconsistency, and intermittent and ongoing changes to the Opportunity Zone program at the federal level, this eligibility number may change.The Montana Department of Commerce has based the 106 eligible tracts on the Opportunity360 data set, updated as of March 1, 2018.

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