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Opportunity Zones is a community development program established by Congress as a part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The zones are designed to encourage long-term private investments in low-income communities.

The program provides a federal tax incentive for taxpayers reinvesting unrealized capital gains into Opportunity Zones as designated by governors in every state. Last year, Gov. Henry McMaster partnered with state and local leaders to submit 135 Opportunity Zones to the U.S. Department of Treasury, including tracts in each of South Carolina's 46 counties.

The Opportunity Zones program has potential. People of Orangeburg and The T&D Region will be particularly interested in a recent Columbia success story involving a movie theater – which has long been a priority for theater-less Orangeburg.

Spotlight Cinemas has opened its newest theater, Capital 8, on Columbia Mall Boulevard in northeast Columbia. The location is part of The Meeting Place Church of Greater Columbia’s 23-acre property, which supports the church’s vision to revitalize the surrounding community.

The new theater not only replaces a movie theater once located in the area but also restores a property encompassed within an Opportunity Zone. The development of the Capital 8 theater is a collaboration between Spotlight Cinemas and The Meeting Place Church.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin praised the project: “I have to thank Bishop Eric Freeman (pastor and founder of The Meeting Place Church) and Rick Phillips (president of Spotlight Cinemas) for seeing and acting on a vision for a family-friendly movie theater in our city, particularly in this neighborhood. This project is one of the first of what we hope are many successful, impactful Opportunity Zone developments in Columbia, and we look forward to seeing more for this exciting time for our city and the people of Columbia.”

The project evolved from The Meeting Place Church’s 2017 acquisition of the 200,000-square-foot complex on Columbia Mall Boulevard with a goal to create a spiritual meeting place for all people from all backgrounds, including economic growth in its mission. The church’s global prayer network has more than 100,000 followers.

“We have enjoyed introducing ourselves to the community since opening this location in 2017,” Freeman said. “We look forward to more businesses finding a home in our complex and bringing a robust center for family-friendly fun, entertainment and worship to the local community.”

Toward fostering more such development in Opportunity Zones, McMaster in partnership with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and the Council of Development Finance Agencies is holding a one-day Governor’s Opportunity Zones Summit on Friday in Columbia.

Being held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, the one-day event will feature industry experts providing the most up-to-date, information for business and community leaders to maximize the impact of Opportunity Zones.

The Columbia theater example is ample reason for officials from every county to be very interested in Opportunity Zones information. A movie theater is not the end all of possibilities, but such a success certainly would be welcomed in Orangeburg and many other communities.

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