GRANTSVILLE — Mike Hough, director of Garrett County Economic Development, was the guest speaker at the regular meeting of the Greater Grantsville Business Association at Penn Alps on Oct. 31.
He spoke about the opportunity zones that are available in Garrett County, and particularly in Grantsville.
“When you think about opportunity zones, unfortunately they are across the entire country,” he said. “If you Google opportunity zones, you’ll find them in Allegany County, West Virginia, Florida … so you find you do have a lot of competition. But when you think about the I-68 corridor, Grantsville’s right along that, with the business park and the town of Grantsville, so there’s a lot of opportunity in that.”
Hough explained that the reasons to invest in opportunity zones include being able to defer the capital gains earned and also having the taxes permanently reduced by 15 percent if the property is kept for seven years.
He stated that what he likes even more is that if the property is held for 10 years, whenever it is sold, the owner can walk away tax-free.
“So those are the big two tax advantages of an opportunity zone,” he said.
He also noted that the project does not have to be up and running immediately, but can be placed in a fund with the intent to invest in the opportunity zones.
Hough answered several questions from the group about the presentation.
County Commissioner Paul Edwards noted that other incentives are also available in the area since Grantsville is an Arts & Entertainment District.
“For Garrett County to take advantage of these opportunity zones, it’s going to take somebody who is from Garrett County — people who have a vested interest, in my personal opinion,” Hough said.
He noted that the opportunity zones are brand new, and he doesn’t think that any funds have been created in Maryland yet because people are still waiting.
He stated that Kim Durst has done a “wonderful job” of updating the county’s website to enable users to search for land for sale, opportunity zones and tax advantages.
• Members cast ballots for the 2019 GGBA board of directors and officers. The tallies resulted in only one change, with new board member Lisa Skipper from Mountain Laurel Medical Center.
There is still a vacancy for the vice president’s position. The board is looking for someone to fill that spot and then move into the role of president in 2020.
Besides Skipper, current board members are Cheryl Bender, Byco Enterprises (treasurer); Leah Diehl, First United Bank (president); Emily Newman-Edwards, Fronterra Resources (secretary); Tracy Fratz, Penn Alps Restaurant & Craft Shop; Regina Holliday, The Walking Gallery; Paula Sheffield, First United Bank; and Blake Walker, First United Bank.
• Nick Sharps, membership development manager for the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, noted that the next Business After Hours will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. today at Alpine Lake.
The next Business Before Hours is planned at Wisp Resort in the Crawford Room from 8-9:30 a.m. Nov. 20. It will be a tourism update.
• Robin Jones, Grantsville town administrator, reported that a Community Legacy grant for $12,000 has been received to light the “Welcome to Grantsville” arch along Md. 495 entering the town and near the Casselman Valley Sportsmen’s Club. Solar lighting will be used.
Jones noted that work has been done to winterize the Town Park. The restrooms have been closed, the batting cage taken down, and the volleyball and tennis nets taken in.
Work continues to collect the CDBG surveys for money to do a feasibility study concerning annexation.
“We’ll hopefully have that done by the third week in November,” she said.
• Edwards gave an update from the commissioners.
“It’s kind of a slow time right now, waiting for the election,” he said. “They’ve broken ground on (U.S) 219, so that project’s now rolling, and they’re going to reopen 219 in Pennsylvania sometime real soon. That’s a big step forward in that very long process.”
He introduced Tracie Miller, new principal at Grantsville Elementary.
“The schools are in a period of transition,” he said. “They need all of the help they can get. This is a great opportunity to collaborate with the business community and the elementary school.”
• Diehl reported that a networking event is planned at the Cornucopia Café from 6-8 p.m. Nov. 14.
It will include finger food appetizers and a cash bar. This will be held in place of the November GGBA meeting, and winning election candidates will be invited to attend.