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Montrose Mayor Dave Bowman will be visiting the White House in Washington, D.C., as part of an Opportunity Zone Conference.

White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs will host the conference April 17 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Attendees will be discussing the opportunity zone tax incentive program also known as the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," workforce education, public infrastructure, and the attraction/retention of investors and new entrepreneurs.

“To be asked to go to the White House is such an honor,” Bowman said. “I’m a big fan. I read a lot of American history, I read presidential biographies. The opportunity to go to the White House at this level, to me is a dream come true. And to be able to do that on behalf and to benefit the community that I love is even more important.”

Officials from the federal government, two cabinet members will be part of the conference and state government officials, local government officials and tribal government officials were invited.

“We are on the cutting edge of this already,” Bowman said. “Montrose has been looking at the opportunity zone idea as soon as we knew about it, and there are two large areas of Montrose that are within the opportunity zone.”

Three broad areas, or census tracts, in Montrose County, are among 126 tracts in Colorado that are certified Colorado opportunity zones. The federal opportunity zone program, established in 2017 under the federal tax reform legislation, allows investors to reinvest taxable income on capital gains into an opportunity fund. The program is meant to encourage investment in economically distressed communities across the nation that wouldn’t get as much otherwise.

It is a collaboration between someone who has a project, for example a start-up business that doesn’t have the money to finance itself, and an investor. There are local and outside investors, Bowman said. The projects then gets built, and the investors make their money back and more.

Bowman said he thinks the city will focus on the Colorado Outdoor Project and Main Street (from the river, east toward Johnson Elementary).

“The City of Montrose is very excited to participate in the important event,” City Manager Bill Bell said in a press release. “The opportunity zone program shows great potential for our community and is going to serve as a catalyst for the creation of successful public-private partnerships as we move Montrose forward together.”

To get Montrose ahead of the curve, last week the city and county partnered for the community opportunity zone prospectus project at the Opportunity Zone Engagement Workshop. The organizations brought in the consulting firm Vita Nuova to create a prospectus. According to the press release, those attending the workshop identified “what types of business investment could help with jobs, workforce housing and various land use in the Montrose area.”

The prospectus will include a list of potential projects the community would like to see funded in the city and county opportunity zones that investors can choose to be part of. These projects could be private or private/public partnerships.

Creating private/public projects and bringing in investors will save the city money, Bowman said. Instead of having to raise taxes for a certain project, for example, they would just go to the investor. There is going to be a large amount of creative thinking and financing to improve communities all over the U.S., he added.

Other items included in the prospectus are city and county population and a profile of strategic advantages.

The prospectus was funded by a $25,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs, or DOLA, and the other $25,000 was funded by the city and county. The prospectus should be done by May.

“Because of the leadership at the city hall level in Montrose, we are ahead of the game at least in the state of Colorado, and I’m willing to bet we’re ahead of the game, nationally,” Bowman said. “And it speaks really, really well of our city staff, that’s headed by Bill Bell, and the great team that he’s put together to tackle this big project.”

In recent months, President Donald Trump has played host to a number of opportunity zone forums. On April 4, he, along with cabinet members, held a White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council meeting.

"We’re providing massive tax incentives for private investment in these areas to create jobs and opportunities where they are needed the most," Trump said in a provided statement. "This is all throughout the country."

Bowman said the prospectus will put Montrose ahead of other communities as far as attracting investors go. The city can take the prospectus to potential investors to show them exactly what is possible.

Bowman said part of the confusion when it comes to opportunity zones is not all the rules and regulations have been written. Also there are people who have sold property that are ready to invest but are reluctant to go too far because everything isn’t clear yet.

Bowman is hopeful he will come back from the conference more knowledgeable on the subject, and share that information with city council, those involved in economic development, such as Montrose Economic Development Corp., city staff, Montrose County and the community. The hope is for those groups to work together to attract investors to the community.

Monica Garcia is the news editor for the Montrose Daily Press.

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