City of Aiken seeking opportunity zone expert to spur investments, development

March 9, 2019

The city of Aiken is interested in contracting a firm — or firms — to advise the city on the opportunity zone program and how it can be leveraged for further economic development.

A request for proposals, detailing the counsel search, was posted to the city’s website Thursday. Responses are due March 20.

The adviser is expected to find and assess potential investments for the city’s opportunity zone; identify and foster relationships with prospective investors; and campaign to raise awareness of the opportunity zone program, among other things.

“The city seeks to maximize the economic potential of the new opportunity zones program,” the 11-page RFP reads.

The RFP details qualifications sought, as well: “pre-existing knowledge and detailed, technical understanding” of the opportunity zone program as well as “demonstrated experience” working with private parties and government, for example.

Opportunity zones — officially designated tracts of land — offer tax incentives to investors. The opportunity zone program came with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act near the end of 2017; U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, pioneered the move.

Aiken is home to one opportunity zone. There are two in the North Augusta area.

Aiken’s opportunity zone is generally located on the Northside, bounded to the north by Rutland Drive and bounded to the south by Vaucluse Road and Colleton Avenue S.E. The old Aiken County hospital property — now targeted for some major redevelopment — is included in it, as is Hahn Village.

Scott and Vice President Mike Pence on Feb. 21 toured an opportunity zone in Columbia. In speeches afterward, Scott described the program as an “olive branch,” and Pence hailed it as an economic equalizer.

The Aiken opportunity zone is home to more than 6,000 people. The median household income there is just short of $25,700, according to information from the city.