Brownback unveils Urban Opportunity Zone initiative in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Building on the success of his Rural Opportunity Zone program, Gov. Sam Brownback announced details Thursday of his Urban Opportunity Zone initiative to help struggling portions of Kansas metropolitan areas.

Gov. Brownback said the initiative is a means to help urban communities bring in new economic development opportunities through incentives for residents to start a small business or other economic activities.

“I want Kansas – all of Kansas – to be the best place in the nation to raise a family and grow a small business,” Brownback said.

Former Kansas City Commissioner Nathan Barnes said he discussed with the governor the similarities between rural counties facing declining population and Kansas urban cores, suggesting something be done to encourage revitalization.
“I’m just glad we have a governor with a listening ear,” Barnes said.

The Kansas Department of Commerce, working with the Department of Revenue, will oversee this initiative. The pilot program will include the Kansas City ZIP codes of 66101, 66102, 66104, 66106 and additional high-poverty ZIP codes in Wichita and Topeka.

• People who move from out of state to one of these select areas will not have to pay individual income taxes for five years.

• People with a college degree and moving from out of state into these zip codes will be eligible for assistance with payments of up to $15,000 for their student loans. The program will require acceptance and a financial commitment from the counties – similar to what the state offers in the Rural Opportunity Zones.

• It will also include an incentive to encourage the development of housing and infrastructure, which will encourage public/private partnerships by allowing the additional property tax revenue from new housing developments to be reinvested into the community through bonds to pay for additional infrastructure such as roads, utilities and land acquisition.

The governor announced the initiative at the Quindaro Ruins Pavilion in Kansas City, Kansas, which overlooks the Missouri River and is a reminder of the community’s rich history.

“This an appropriate venue for us,” the Governor said. “Quindaro Township represented opportunity to those who came to this area and passed through it. It is a reminder that our communities must grow and take advantage of opportunities so they remain vibrant.”

The location was a major stop on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape bondage and find opportunity in a free Kansas and beyond.