Opportunity Zones were conceived as an innovative approach to spurring long-term private sector investments in low-income communities nationwide. The concept was originally introduced to help address the persistent poverty and uneven recovery that left too many American communities behind. The idea has since been championed by a wide-ranging coalition of investors, entrepreneurs, community developers, economists, and other stakeholders. Opportunity Zones are low income census tracts nominated by governors and certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury into which investors can now put capital to work financing new projects and enterprises in exchange for certain federal capital gains tax advantages. The country now has over 8,700 Opportunity Zones in every state and territory.
The Opportunity Zones program encourages long-term investment and job creation in low-income areas of the state, by allowing investors to re-invest unrealized capital gains in designated census tracts. On April 20, 2018, former Governor Bruce Rauner submitted the allowable 327 of the 1,305 qualifying census tracts to the federal government for inclusion in the Opportunity Zone program. Based on the guidelines established, Governor Rauner was eligible to nominate 25% (327) of the state’s 1,305 qualifying low-income census tracts as Opportunity Zones. Five (5) of those qualifying census tracts are in Lake County and are shared between North Chicago and Waukegan.