SAN ANTONIO – How do you attract new businesses to low-income areas? One way may be to offer tax breaks.
That's the motive behind opportunity zones. President Donald Trump initiated it in his 2017 tax bill.
The legislation allowed Gov. Greg Abbott to identify 24 opportunity zones in Bexar County.
In March 2018, Abbott distributed over 600 zones to low-income areas in the state.
One of the opportunity zones is Brooks on the South Side.
Brooks Chief Financial Officer Samantha Carneiro said investors were already interested in the area, but an added boost has happened since becoming an opportunity zone last year.
“I think within the last week, I've met with four different groups, all looking to place money or do a project here at Brooks,” Carneiro said.
Carneiro said the designation of opportunity zone is meant to attract businesses to stay in low-income areas for seven to 10 years. The benefit to the businesses is lower taxes.
“Being designated as an opportunity zone has really increased that interest and allowed us to talk to many equity groups that typically may have not looked here before,” Carneiro said.
Carneiro said since Brooks became an opportunity zone in March, it has sealed the deal for one land sale, but there are also 24 potential projects in the works.
Other businesses already under construction in Brooks won't get the tax benefit, but they are adding jobs to the area. The Czech Republic IT company Okin BPS is expected to create 1,400 jobs in five years. City Base Commons will bring retail and restaurants to the area, and VIA Metropolitan Transit is building its transit center, expected to open this year. Southerleigh restaurant and brewery is opening its second location later this year.
“We are looking to bring restaurants and retail that are on the North Side that maybe would not locate on the South Side,” Carneiro said.
Carneiro said there were 2,700 jobs when the U.S. Air Force base was in Brooks. Today, there are 3,300 jobs in Brooks, and 2,400 jobs are expected to be added in the next several years.