Leaders See Wheeling Opportunity Zone As ‘Good Tool’

WHEELING — Area officials think the new certified Opportunity Zone in the city will be a good tool for business development.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced May 21 that five zones have been certified. These zones are located in Wheeling, Weirton and in Wetzel, Tyler and Marshall counties.

“We think it’s going to be a pretty good tool,” said Craig O’Leary, program director for the Regional Economic Development Partnership in Wheeling.

Regarding projects that might benefit from the zones, he said Wednesday, “Obviously, the energy industry, and some of future projects in downtown Wheeling may be able to take advantage of that.”

It’s too early in the process to speculate on specific projects for the opportunity zones.

“It’s difficult to know until the guidelines come out,” he said.

O’Leary said the RED organization worked with the Marshall County Commission and the city of Wheeling to get the designation in their communities. The tracts’ eligibility was based on demographics of the area.

“We’re always trying to move projects forward,” he added.

Explaining the next steps, he said, “There needs to be an opportunity fund created, to make investments within the zones.”

However, he said, the U.S. Department of Treasury has not completed its guidelines for the opportunity fund.

Money for the opportunity fund will come from individual investors. The fund then “will make investment in a project within that qualified zone,” he said.

As an incentive, investors will get a tax benefit in the form of a deferral on capital gains. The tax benefit “depends on how long the investment remains in place,” he said.

Investors can defer tax on any prior gains until no later than Dec. 31, 2026, so long as the gain is reinvested in a qualified opportunity fund. The investor would be eligible for an increase if the investment is held in the fund for at least 10 years.

Wheeling’s new zone is situated in industrial, commercial and residential areas near W.Va. 2, Interstates 70 and 470 and the Ohio River. City development officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Weirton’s zone is in its downtown corridor.

Marshall County’s zone is located near shale gas, oil reserves and industrial companies. Wetzel County’s area is in the center of the shale gas exploration and production site, while Tyler County’s zone is situated in developable sites near Paden City Industrial Park.

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