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  • Maine names the 32 communities selected to participate in the federal Opportunity Zones program

     

    The Maine State Capitol in Augusta in spring. Augusta has been identified as an Opportunity Zone. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    Governor Paul LePage has named the 32 Maine communities selected to participate in the federal Opportunity Zones program

    The Opportunity Zone is a new economic development program established under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

    Here's the list, by county, of Maine communities selected to be Opportunity Zones:

    • Androscoggin: Auburn, Lewiston
    • Aroostook: Washburn, Limestone, Madawaska and a contiguous low-income tract encompassing Caswell, Stockholm and Connor.
    • Cumberland: Portland (port area), Westbrook, South Portland, Brunswick.
    • Hancock: Ellsworth.
    • Kennebec: Augusta, Waterville.
    • Oxford: Rumford, Paris.
    • Penobscot: Bangor, Brewer, Old Town, Lincoln, Enfield, Millinocket, East Millinocket.
    • Piscataquis: Greenville.
    • Sagadaoc: Bath.
    • Somerset: Hartland, Madison.
    • Waldo: Belfast.
    • Washington: Calais; the eligible non-low-income contiguous tract encompassing Baileyville, Whiting and Dennysville; and the contiguous low-income tract encompassing Pembroke, Baring and Meddybumps.
    • York: Saco. 

    The designation provides a federal tax incentive for taxpayers who invest unrealized capital gains into so-called "Opportunity Funds," dedicated to investing in established "Opportunity Zones."

    Federal law allows governors from each state to nominate 25 percent of a state's eligible low-income census tracts to be designated as Opportunity Zones. Of the 128 eligible tracts in Maine, LePage was limited to select a maximum of 32 for designation into the program.

    LePage selected tracts based primarily on identified investment opportunities where such investments would likely be met with success. 

    "Opportunity Zones will help attract otherwise wary investors to underserved communities. With an estimated $2.3 trillion in underutilized capital gains, certain investments will no longer be subject to capital gains tax to incentivize long-term investor commitment," said George Gervais, DECD commissioner.

    In February, the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) began accepting public input regarding the designation of Maine's Opportunity Zones. 

    "We received feedback from across the state," said Gervais. "In many communities, this program could be the catalyst to moving development projects forward by attracting much needed capital and ultimately benefiting not just that community but the entire state."