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Members from all over the city of Pine Bluff will be working together to bring economic development into low-income parts of the city.

At a meeting Monday, the Pine Bluff City Council approved a resolution to appoint several key officials to the new Opportunity Zone Task Force, which was established in December.

Council member Bruce Lockett said the task force is an effort to streamline investment into the city.

"We are competing with people all over the country for these investments. We want to package it as simply as possible," Lockett said.

Opportunity zones are a new community development program established by Congress as a part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Opportunity zones are designed to encourage long-term private investments in low-income communities and they provide a federal tax incentive for taxpayers who reinvest unrealized capital gains into opportunity funds.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson nominated three opportunity zones in Pine Bluff: the downtown area, the port and the area around the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

"There were 85 opportunity zones in the state," Lockett said. "This means we have a real chance to bring stakeholders to the table to help develop these zones."

Lockett said the task force will create a comprehensive centralized portal of information related to the opportunity zone through a coordinated, multidisciplinary, city-wide response and serve as an education resource that will enable investors to evaluate the outcomes, gather data, plan projects and establish opportunity zone funds related to Pine Bluff.

"These investments can make some pretty big changes," Lockett said.

The resolution that was passed in December stated the many Pine Bluff businesses and non-profit organizations are planning projects in designated opportunity zones with the intent of creating "opportunity funds" to support these projects.

Members of the Task Force include: Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff or his designee; Stuart Hee, representing the Pine Bluff Collaborative; Ryan Watley, representing Go Forward Pine Bluff; Maurice Taggart, representing the Urban Renewal Agency; Larry Reynolds, representing Southeast Arkansas Regional Planning; Jimmy Cunningham, representing Delta Rhythm and Bayous Alliance; Payton Burgess, representing the Southeast Arkansas Economic District; Bobbie Morgan, representing the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library; Darren James, representing Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility; Caleb McMahon, representing the Jefferson County Alliance; Mitzi Ruth, representing the Pine Bluff Inspection and Zoning Department; Lori Walker, representing the Pine Bluff Economic and Community Development Department; Jan Robinson, representing the Downtown Property Owners Association; Rachel Miller, representing the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas; and Joy Blankenship, representing Pine Bluff Downtown Development, Inc.

Ex officio members of the task force include: Mayor Shirley Washington, Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson, members of the City Council and Quorum Court, members of the state legislative delegation or their designees; a representative of the governor's office, a representative of the Student Government Association and National Alumni Association of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the superintendents of the Pine Bluff and Dollarway School Districts or their designees.

Lockett was also added to the list of task force members at the city council meeting.

State Desk on 02/05/2019

Print Headline: Pine Bluff council appoints members to economic development program

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