02.24.20

A chance for all of Colorado to grow

When my hometown of Yuma (population 3,500) built its third traffic light, it was the talk of the town. In towns like ours, even the smallest of new developments make a large splash. Projects and investments are felt close to home. But unfortunately, for us they arrive much less often than they do on the Front Range.

The United States is the land of opportunity. Yet even as our national economy booms, opportunities have failed to reach communities that seem to need them the most. Too many working families across Colorado feel left behind and overlooked, as growing cities continue to grow and distressed communities remain distressed. In short, Washington’s typical, heavy-handed approaches have failed our smaller and rural communities.

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and I decided to craft a new solution to encourage economic growth. In 2016, we introduced the Investing in Opportunity Act to incentivize long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities. This bipartisan legislation, which was signed into law as part of the landmark Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, created federal tax incentives to invest in targeted areas called Opportunity Zones. It is still early, but the Opportunity Zones are already working. In fact, this Saturday in Grand Junction I was proud to help the Western Slope welcome millions of dollars in new investments as a direct result of the Opportunity Zones passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.

Colorado identified 126 Opportunity Zones, 60 percent of which were in rural areas. Once made official in 2018, Colorado’s Opportunity Zones immediately began to attract investments and support projects in areas that were previously neglected – beginning right here on the Western Slope. A technology startup in Montrose was the first company in Colorado and one of the first in the nation to receive investments based on its location in an Opportunity Zone.

On Saturday, I visited Grand Junction’s Community Hospital to see how the hospital would use the $85.8 million loan it secured because of the area’s Opportunity Zone to increase the quality of services for Coloradans on the Western Slope. The Community Hospital plans to upgrade operating rooms, purchase new equipment, and adopt a new electronic medical records system, all made possible because for once Washington created fewer barriers to fund new projects and provided more incentives for growth.

Later in the day, Mayor Rick Taggart and I helped break ground for 22 new townhomes to be built in Grand Junction and celebrated the announcement of future projects to come, all of which will be built in Opportunity Zones.

In 2018 before the Treasury Department certified Colorado’s Opportunity Zones, I wrote in the Daily Sentinel that Opportunity Zones “could mean a new timber plant in the San Luis Valley, a new small business on the Western Slope, or an agriculture processing plant on the Eastern Plains.” The possibilities don’t end there, however.

All told, there are more than 500 Qualified Opportunity Funds with billions of dollars to invest in communities across the country. Opportunity Zones are supporting the Riverfront Park at Las Colonias project here in Grand Junction, a massive business park for outdoor recreation businesses in Montrose, the first hotels at the Colorado Springs Airport, and a 300-acre reservoir to provide water for residents in Sterling. Many more projects will follow, bringing new jobs, businesses, and infrastructure improvements that will make a world of difference in our local communities.

Opportunity Zones are breathing new life into local economies and building up main streets across the Centennial State. That’s what happens when you bet on the American people and their dreams, not the government bureaucracy – when you give people the right incentives, instead of government regulation. Given a choice between more government programs from Washington or creating chances to succeed in Colorado, I’ll place my faith in the people of Colorado every time.

 

U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel