Officials with the Knox County Development Corp. have secured state funding to help them better market the city's two Opportunity Zones.

KCDC president Kent Utt said Knox County is one of six Indiana counties included in an initiative aimed at helping communities better understand, explain and even market the Opportunity Zones designated to them last year.

A task force will now be created, he said, and the money spent on creating a “professional and comprehensive” prospectus that will be distributed to those they feel most likely to invest in the Opportunity Zones.

“Leadership at (the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs) was very pleased with the progress and momentum occurring in Knox County and specifically the Opportunity Zones,” Utt said.

KCDC had looked into hiring its own consultant to help with the creation of a prospectus, and the price tag, he said, was $40,000.

This grant will provide dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and resources from the Purdue Center for Regional Development at no charge to the county.

The prospectus, he said, will tout the available acreage within the two zones, which make up much of downtown Vincennes. The boundary lines extend from downtown Main Street north to Niblack Boulevard, from the Wabash River east as far as Upper 11th St. downtown and as far as North Sixth Street out past St. Clair Street.

It includes much of historic downtown, Vincennes University and Kimmell Park as well as local businesses like Packaging Corporation of America, Wabash Steel and SCHOTT Gemtron.

The KCDC also wants to help potential investors understand the benefits beyond the tax incentives associated with an Opportunity Zone as both of them overlap with the Urban Enterprise Association and the Tax Increment Finance Zone. Both of those, too, come with additional financial benefits.

“We have all those stackable credits,” he said. “And all of them are great financial tools for attracting someone to locate within the Opportunity Zone.

The prospectus — a tool commonly used in marketing or advertising — would also boast about ongoing investments within the Opportunity Zone, including the creation of the Pantheon Business Theater, a small business incubator and shared workspace, facade improvements along Main Street as well as the soon-to-be Riverview Lofts apartment complex on the banks of the Wabash River.

Also included would be news on the French Village, a student housing development at Vincennes University, and a recent $2.5 million renovation of Kimmell Park.

“All of those things show the momentum we have,” he said, “so we'll use it all to create a brochure, a marketing piece, that we can share with investors.”

Not only do new business owners often look within an Opportunity Zone, but there are often mutual funds set up by investors willing to invest in new ventures. This prospectus, too, would be shared with them, Utt said.

“It's about understanding those tax advantages and getting that information to the right audience,” he said. “This (prospectus) will give us a better tool with more detailed background information to promote both to people growing (a business) within our existing community but also for those high-growth companies seeking a location within an Opportunity Zone.

“And that Purdue stamp,” he said, “gives (the prospectus) more validity.”

City officials learned in May that Vincennes had received two state-designated Opportunity Zones, areas that offer the businesses who locate within their boundaries capital gains tax incentives.

The Opportunity Zones were identified by Gov. Eric Holcomb then later given federal approval; the zones are now identified both on the state's website and as an overlay on the county's GIS mapping system, both of which are linked directly from the KCDC's own web page.

The idea behind these new Opportunity Zones is to encourage business within them and spurring economic development. Selection was limited to certain Census tracts that qualify as low income, or with a poverty rate of at least 20-percent.

For Vincennes, the poverty rate for the two zones combined was 27.5 percent.

The incentive for businesses is in the deferment of a small percentage of capital gains taxes over a period of 10 years. Essentially, the longer the businesses is there, the more potential savings there would be.

And KCDC officials are hoping such incentives appeal to the potential entrepreneurs doing business at the Pantheon Business Theater — or specifically the ideas and new businesses that would be generated within it.
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