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The 66 places LePage passed over for tax breaks

This is the last of three stories about the places Gov. Paul LePage chose and did not choose for federal Opportunity Zone tax breaks.

A group of Boston investors said their plans to buy Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley hinged on Gov. Paul LePage’s selection of the area as an Opportunity Zone, a program that would give investors a tax break. LePage did not pick the Rangeley area.
By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff
July 19, 2018 6:00 am

In picking a limited number of areas of Maine where investors could get federal tax breaks, Gov. Paul LePage had to pass over many parts of the state, including 66 specific suggestions from local officials, economic development groups and companies.

That group includes Arctaris Capital, a Boston-based firm that said the designation would be essential to a plan to buy and reopen Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley.

Critics of the tax break program argue that it incentivizes investments that likely would have happened without the breaks, but a review of public requests for designations shows what places passed over hoped would come from the designation.

That group also includes Ashland, where biomass firm ReEnergy and a local economic development group sought to build complementary businesses around a biomass generator whose subsidy from Maine taxpayers runs out early next year.

Bartlettyarns, a woolen mill in Harmony, also asked for the governor to designate the tract including Harmony and Athens, touting its plans for an expansion at a parcel in Athens.

LePage also skipped over a suggestion from Bob Peacock, operations manager for the Lubec-based frozen seafood producer Trufresh LLC, who forwarded the governor’s administration a presentation on the program’s impact.

As a group, the areas LePage selected had a higher unemployment rate but a slightly lower poverty rate than the areas he didn’t select.

Other groups had partial success, including the Portland-based Renewal Housing, which suggested specific downtown tracts in Portland and Waterville, where it suggested the program could help attract investment to a mixture of low-income and market-rate housing. The specific tracts it suggested were not picked, but nearby tracts were.

The owners of St. John Valley properties were less specific in their suggestions but similarly won some and lost some, asking to designate a range of downtowns where they projected new investment could help rebuild town centers.

The left-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy was the only group to suggest a full slate of 32 areas of the state, supplementing data on unemployment and poverty with regional retail sales tax data. LePage ended up picking 13 of the group’s total 31 suggestions.

See the full list of locations that requested designations but were not picked below. Hover over poverty rate or jobless rate measures to see a map of the tract and click to get a link to that group’s letter to the governor.

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