City funding project to market Opportunity Zone

City officials recently voted to fund a project to market a federal Opportunity Zone on Seymour’s south east side in an effort to attract development there.

The city’s redevelopment commission unanimously voted to pay no more than $12,500 to Thomas P. Miller and Associates for the project. It will be funded with tax increment financing money from the city. TIF revenue is generated by the city capturing a portion of property taxes from new development within the a district for a designated amount of time. The money is controlled by the redevelopment commission.

The project will include a marketing plan for the area, including who the area will be marketed to and materials for the project. The city already paid the Indianapolis-based firm for an assessment of the area.

“It’s an education part and how we can differentiate ourselves from the other Opportunity Zones,” said Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. “Their expertise and putting the story together and getting it out there is what they will do.”

The Opportunity Zone program was created as part of President Donald Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Communities had to apply with the governor’s office for approval by the U.S. Treasury Department to establish Opportunity Zones.

The department approved 156 zones from Indiana this spring.

The program allows developers who put capital gains from stock sales and other investments into zone properties and businesses to defer federal taxes on capital gains up to 2026, and then get a discount when their bill comes due. Any gains from new zone investments that are held onto for at least 10 years won’t be taxed at all, according to The Associated Press.

Seymour’s Opportunity Zone is a 1,500-acre census tract that encompasses the area where Silgan Plastics is located on the city’s far south side all the way north to the CSX rail line near Cummins Seymour Engine Plant.

The tract includes Meadowbrook Drive and runs south to County Road 340N, turns south to County Road 300N and over to State Road 11. From there, it runs north to the CSX rail line northeast to O’Brien Street and up to Tipton Street.

Plump said his office has only shared information about the zone in broad terms with industry representatives. The development is not limited to industry, but to retail, housing and more.

Plump said he has been told the area compares well to the other 155 Opportunity Zones throughout Indiana. He said Seymour’s has more of an advantage over rural areas because some of those spaces are limited to housing only.

“You don’t have the size, space and flexibility that we do in some of those areas,” he said.

A combination of factors were evaluated, including existing economic development programs and local coordination of efforts, economic and community data, likelihood of attracting short- and long-term investment, growing industry sectors within the community and recommendations and information submitted through an online application.

The poverty rate of Seymour’s Opportunity Zone is 26 percent, and the unemployment rate is 8.5 percent.

The first phase the firm completed included an overview of an Opportunity Zone, opportunity funds and incentives, and it assessed the area.

“We’ll know a lot more from this second part,” Plump said.

The city already is working on two major projects in the same area to open it up for future development. Those projects involve the installation of a new sewer line south of Tipton Street (U.S. 50) along South O’Brien Street and construction of the first phase of the Burkart Boulevard south bypass, which includes a railroad overpass over the Louisville & Indiana Railroad and a multipurpose trail.