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Higgins urges inclusion of 32 local tracts among new Federal Opportunity Zones

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A new federal program quietly launched in December's tax reform provides investors with tax incentives for development in poorer neighborhoods. It's up to states to determine what zones qualify as Federal Opportunity Zones and in Buffalo, one local congressman is urging Albany to ensure no less than 32 qualified tracts are included in a nomination due next month.

Based on Census data which determines eligibility for Federal Opportunity Zone status, Congressman Brian Higgins estimates there are 128 plots in Erie and Niagara Counties that qualify for the tax incentive program.

One of those zones that qualify, he stated, is Buffalo's Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. He introduced the Federal Opportunity Zone program while standing amidst ongoing construction on the second floor of a building at 1021 Broadway. 

"The opportunity zone allows investors to take proceeds of profitable investments and move them to the opportunity fund, lowering the tax burden for investors to provide new resources for job creation investments in low-income areas," Higgins said.

However, under the rules of the program states may only nominate up to 25 percent of qualified tracts. Higgins says that would mean 32 local plots may - and should - be included among New York's nominations.

"The program holds great potential for the Broadway-Fillmore area and projects like this," he said. "Neighborhoods from Niagara Falls, to Lackawanna, to Tonawanda, to Cheektowaga also stand to benefit."

The project underway where Higgins and guests stood is the future home of Jericho Road's medical center. The space will also be home to eight additional human service agencies which plan to share resources at the address.

The deadline for states to submit their nominations to the U.S. Treasury Department is March 21.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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