REGIONAL - Worthington’s northernmost census tract has been nominated by Gov. Mark Dayton as a federal “Opportunity Zone,” the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced Friday.


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Opportunity Zones were established in the 2017 tax bill to encourage long-term economic development and housing investments in low-income communities. Once the program is formally launched, investors can get a tax cut by investing their capital gains into Opportunity Funds, money that will used to invest in small businesses and real estate projects located within selected low-income communities.


“Opportunity Zones have the potential to bring much needed investment to some of Minnesota’s lowest-income areas to spur economic development,” said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy. “This program could lead to new strategies to bridge public-private partnerships.”


The nomination could create more investments in workforce housing, potentially aiding the housing shortage in Worthington, said Jason Brisson, Worthington Community and Economic Development Director.


Also included in Dayton’s recommendations is a Cottonwood County census tract that includes most of Windom and all of Bingham Lake. In Rock County, Magnolia, Kanaranzi, Ash Creek, Steen, Hills, Bruce and the southeast corner of Luverne are nominated. The entire city of Jackson and eastern half of Pipestone are also included in Dayton’s nomination.


Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson, with the help of Brisson, submitted an application asking that Nobles County tracts be considered as nominees. The Nobles County Board of Commissioners, Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp., Southwest Initiative Foundation, Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and Southwest Regional Development Commission provided letters of support.


The nominated Nobles County census tract includes most of Oxford Street and residential communities located south of Oxford Street. It excludes residential communities along Lake Okabena and much of downtown Worthington.

Each state’s governor is authorized to designate one-quarter of their lower-income census tracts for the program - 128 in Minnesota. Area northwest Iowa communities were not included in Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ nominations. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has 30 days to certify the zones.