EDASC hosts opportunity zone workshop

Friday, June 28, 2019

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MOUNT VERNON – EDASC hosted the county’s first opportunity zone informational session June 25 at the Best Western Plus Skagit Valley Inn & Convention Center, providing the chance for about 100 attendees to learn about the tax incentive from mayors, federal government officials, a CPA specializing in federal programs, and more.

Those in attendance included property and business owners, real estate brokers, investors, developers, tax and legal professionals, elected officials, and more.

Opportunity zones are the product of a relatively new tax law offering investors preferential capital gains tax treatment for projects creating housing, jobs or both in economically distressed census tracts.

Skagit County has four opportunity zones, with two in Mount Vernon and one each in Anacortes and Sedro-Woolley.

The tax incentive, already quite complicated, had a new set of clarifying guidelines introduced recently, making it the perfect time for EDASC to step in and organize the informational session, said EDASC CEO John Sternlicht.

Sternlicht said the goals of the event were to provide useful, reliable information on a new and complex topic, and to give a platform to the cities of Skagit County with opportunity zones so they could present their respective development plans.

The event included presentations from Anacortes Mayor Laurie Gere, Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau and Sedro-Woolley Mayor Julia Johnson highlighting their opportunity zones, and an informative – and humorous – talk from accountant Nicolo Pinoli, partner at Novogradac & Company LLP.

Other speakers included Sternlicht, National Development Council Assistant Director Melissa Lafayette, Whatcom Community Foundation President and CEO Mauri Ingram, and Sarah Lindsley, senior management analyst at the Office of Field Policy and Management of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Community Action of Skagit County sponsored the event, providing the nonprofit the chance to highlight its properties located in one of Mount Vernon’s opportunity zones.

Following the presentations, attendees had a chance to network and visit exhibits tables set up by Community Action, the three cities, and EDASC.

Mount Vernon Downtown Association Executive Director Ellen Gamson, who was in attendance, said it was an informative event.

“I have attended several workshops about opportunity zones and this one was the best yet,” Gamson said.

Great diversity exists within Skagit County’s four opportunity zones. Anacortes’ incorporates much of southern Commercial Avenue and the neighborhoods north of Mount Erie Elementary School. It’s a mix of residential neighborhoods, Island Hospital, commercial establishments and the Samish Indian Nation’s tribal headquarters.

Mount Vernon’s opportunity zones, of which there are two, include downtown, the western end of College Way and part of Skagit Valley Hospital. Sedro-Woolley’s opportunity zone stretches north from the city center through commercial and industrial areas.

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