Residents of Fort Bend County may soon be looking at the arrival of new businesses and investments into their community. When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was passed, a part of the bill included the chance for states to apply for “opportunity zones.” These zones encourage private investments in cities, particularly parts of a city that have lagged behind economically while others have prospered. Opportunity zones work by creating a private pool of investment funds. Essentially, investors are encouraged to invest in a community. These investors are lured by the prospect of deferring taxes and reducing their capital gains taxes. The catch is that these investors have to put some of their earnings into the pool of Opportunity Funds.
After a pool of funds have been created, the investors work with local communities come together to decide what combination of infrastructure, housing, business, and other investments are needed inside of that community. Every group involved in the decision making come together to help decide what improvements are best. The chance to undergo community improvements is what makes opportunity zones so enticing for cities. However, not all parts of a city can become an opportunity zone. Only those parts of a city that are designated as low-income are eligible to become opportunity zones. Even then, only 25 percent of those low-income areas can be designated opportunity zones.
The responsibility for calling for opportunity zones fell to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who had to submit a list of zones to the federal government. Abbott designated 628 areas across 145 Texas counties as opportunity zones. These areas typically suffered from higher unemployment, a smaller population, and even poor economic performance that happened because of natural disasters. As many people from Houston will attest, Hurricane Harvey was the perfect example of a natural disaster interrupting the local economy.
Numerous parts of Houston and surrounding Harris county were named as opportunity zones. Now, five areas in Fort Bend County have been designated as opportunity zones. Parts of the county that will benefit from the designation includes tracts of land that stretch along Highway 36 west of Rosenberg. This land will include parts of Beasley and land moving north of Highway 90A, up to the Brazos River. Highway 36 is considered a driver of economic growth in Fort Bend county.
Port Freeport operates close to the highway and several railroads that cross through the area are also sources of economic growth. As an already established source of growth for local commercial, industrial, and manufacturing interests, it’s the perfect place to begin new economic investments. However, it won’t be the only area of the county that benefits. Parts of Richmond along Highway 90 will also become opportunity zones, and another tract of land along Highway 90 and Highway 99 will also be welcoming new investors. Missouri City itself will be welcoming two new opportunity zones to encourage long term investment, which may lead to greater prosperity in the city.