Vice President Mike Pence joined Sen. Tim Scott in South Carolina Thursday to talk about redevelopment and see investments made in some of the state’s economically distressed areas.
Pence toured The Meeting Place Church and a Columbia Place Mall movie theater which benefited from the Opportunity Zone program, giving federal tax breaks to people in need.
For a decade, the shopping mall was essentially abandoned. But in 2016, the church decided to invest in the plaza.
“We began to breathe life into this community because we believed it was an opportunity here. Now, we stand in this moment because of the development that has transpired,” said Bishop Eric Freeman in front of the VP and church members.
It’s this success in revitalization that Sen. Scott, who spearheaded the Opportunity Act, wants to continue.
“If you look at our unemployment we are at a historic low. Investments are at a historic high, but there are places in our nation where the recovery has been uneven,” Scott explained.
The program offers tax breaks to companies to invest in developing blighted properties, improving infrastructure and bringing more businesses to the area.
“The truth is, Opportunity Zones help address unique needs by forming partnerships at the federal level with regard to tax benefits, state and local leaders and local investors to make that incentive to make it even more possible for people to invest,” said Vice President Pence.
The legislation encourages long term commitment. So the longer a company stays in the area, the more of a tax break they’ll be eligible for over the years.
And for those who live in these areas and have seen the change over time, many are hopeful this initiative will help restore the place they call home.
“It was a little disturbing to see it wasn’t moving forward and thriving but it’s encouraging to see it’s a possibility of it growing again,” said Pastor Johnny Owens with Greenview Baptist Church in Columbia. “This is the beginning of it… that’s amazing.”
South Carolina has a total of 128 low-income communities designated as Opportunity Zones, including areas in Greenville, Greenwood and Anderson counties.