By Lauren E. Williams, Special to the AFRO

“If there is no succession plan, there will be no success.” U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) said at a moderated session during a Washington, D.C. stop of his National Opportunity Tour on April 25 at the Washington Court Hotel.  The session was moderated by national syndicated news columnist, Raynard Jackson.

The National Opportunity Tour has taken the Republican Senator around the country hosting conversations with local and state leaders. The focus of these dialogues has been The Investing in Opportunity Act, a bipartisan bill Senator Scott led last year.

Senator Tim Scott and columnist Raynard Jackson at the D.C. stop for the National Opportunity Tour.

The bill was recently included in a tax reform law signed by President Donald Trump in 2017. Other bill co-sponsors include: Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Congressmen Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Ron Kind (D-WI) on the House version.

The Opportunity Act aims to incentivize long-term investment in distressed communities, often made up of people of color. According to Senator Scott’s description during the session, tax incentives (part of the capital gains tax) will be given to participants for up to 10 years.  The bill creates new ways for small businesses and entrepreneurs to support infrastructure projects and initiatives in distressed communities making them “Opportunity Zones.”

When describing why he introduced the bill, Senator Scott pointed to his upbringing. “Living in a single-parent household in distressed communities all of my childhood really helped me understand and appreciate why it is important to track opportunities into the zones,” Senator Scott told the crowd.

“So many times too many of our young folks have amazing potential, amazing power and yet they are under the radar consistently because opportunities have not descended upon their neighborhoods,” Scott continued. “I wanted to find a way to target these areas.”

During the event, Senator Scott mentioned that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan supports the Opportunity Zones program.  A spokesperson from the governor’s office told the AFRO, “this nationwide program will help grow businesses, revitalize communities and create jobs throughout the state, especially in places that need them the most. The Opportunity Zones are yet another tool we can use to show that Maryland is open for business.”

According to Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development, Maryland was entitled to nominate 149 low-income census tracts as opportunity zones.  According to an April 2018 press release, once the U.S. Treasury has approved Maryland’s Opportunity Zone nominations, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development will administer the program with support from the Maryland Department of Commerce.

When asked how attendees could help spread the word, Senator Scott pushed social media, email and constant communication with friends and colleagues. Several head nods from many in the 50-person crowd showed agreement.

Senator Scott told the crowd, “This legislation can either be monumental for those who really need it, or just a good idea that never came .”

The discussion was hosted by Republican 527 Super PAC Black Americans for a Better Future.