Gov. Paul LePage has chosen to deliver federal tax benefits to investors in parts of Maine with existing or defunct manufacturing operations, closed military bases and selected urban pockets, in a move favoring areas in Penobscot County.
Under the federal Opportunity Zones program, LePage was able to pick up to 32 census tracts to qualify for the tax benefits.
A designation will allow investors who put money into projects in those “opportunity zones” to avoid taxes on the capital gains returned by their investments. It’s an approach tried by past Democratic and Republican administrations, in efforts to use federal tax policy to lure investment or jobs to an area.
LePage chose from a total of 128 possible tracts, which are considered low-income. He could pick two from certain areas adjacent to a low-income tract. The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday released the list of Maine selections.
LePage picked tracts that include part or all of Bangor, Brewer, Enfield, Lincoln, Millinocket and East Millinocket, for a total of seven tracts in Penboscot County. Aroostook and Cumberland were next highest, with four selected tracts.
Many of the governor’s selections include major manufacturers or anchor businesses for which the tax benefits could potentially lure new investors. That includes paper mills in Rumford and Baileyville, military shipbuilder Bath Iron Works and Belfast boat builder Front Street Shipyard. The designation also includes the former mill town of Madison and former military bases in Limestone and Brunswick.
The selected tracts include all or part of those communities, as tract boundaries don’t necessarily align with municipal boundaries, particularly in urban areas. They comprise districts of between 2,500 and 8,000 people.
The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development said in a statement Monday that “LePage selected tracts based primarily on identified investment opportunities where such investments would likely be met with success.”
All but three counties will get some piece of the pie. LePage did not pick any census tracts in Franklin, Lincoln or Knox counties.
See the full list of selected tracts and municipalities or unorganized townships touched by those tracts below.
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