The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 created an economic development tool known as Opportunity Zones designed to encourage long-term investments in low-income communities. These Opportunity Zones are a federal program and should not be confused with the much-maligned New York Empire Zone and Governor Cuomo’s Start-Up New York programs.
The federal law authorized Governors to nominate a certain number of census tracts as Opportunity Zones. Based on population, New York qualified to name 514 census tracts as Opportunity Zones earlier this year. Locally, 14 were named in Onondaga County—all of which were in the City of Syracuse. Four were named in Oswego County which included portions of the City of Fulton and the City of Oswego, the Village of Pulaski, and the Town of Richland. Three were named in the City of Watertown in Jefferson County.
Under the program, taxpayers have the option to defer tax on a capital gain by investing the gain in an Opportunity Zone Fund. The Opportunity Zone Fund is a fund set up as either a corporation or partnership to invest in eligible property located in an Opportunity Zone. Taxpayers who invest in an Opportunity Zone Fund do not need to live or work in the qualifying zone in order to invest in the funds.
The idea of the program is that it will incentivize investment in communities that have had trouble attracting investment--thereby spurring economic growth. Unlike most New York state economic development programs, the Opportunity Zone program doesn’t involve government choosing favored businesses to receive government subsidies couched as economic development. Rather, this strictly involves private investment. Hopefully, it will enable places like Fulton, Oswego, Pulaski and Richland to better attract capital which in turn will spur the area’s economy. While this has the potential to be a helpful program, we should not lose sight of the fact that what New York really needs is broad-based economic reform that will lower taxes and limit job killing regulation so that we no longer continue to be at an economic disadvantage compared to other states and the rest of the world.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at, or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also can friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.