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Legislation to expand Opportunity Zone program may help some Michigan communities

Buick City, Flint Michigan
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Buick City, Flint Michigan

New federal legislation may help some Michigan communities develop long-dormant industrial sites.

The federal Opportunity Zone program provides a range of tax incentives in economically distressed communities. But large industrial tracts with no one living on them aren’t eligible.

Tyler Rossmaessler is the executive director of the Flint and Genesee Economic Alliance. He said the current Opportunity Zone law makes it harder to market old industrial sites like the old Buick City site in Flint.

“The existing legislation that disqualified this site, based on a census quirk, is wrong and needs to be fixed,” said Rossmaessler.

The Buick City site’s history as a manufacturing center dates back to the 1800’s. But for the past decade, the RACER (Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response) Trust has tried, with limited success to find new manufacturing firms to take the place of General Motors on the on the 413-acre site. Much of the property now is serving as a parking lot for GM trucks waiting for semiconductor chips.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) is introducing legislation to expand the federal opportunity zone program to more former industrial sites.

Speaking at the former Buick City site in Flint, Kildee said this legislation would help redevelop brownfield sites.

“What our legislation will do is take sites that fit this definition and automatically designate them as opportunity zones” said Kildee. “It won’t require any additional action by governors, or by the congress or any of the agencies of the federal government.”

If passed, Kildee’s legislation would affect more than 40 sites across the country, including at least a few in Michigan.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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