Opportunity zones can help Wright Factory site

DAYTON, Ohio (March 2018) – As many know or have seen or felt, we are on a much better trend as far as commercial and residential development versus past years. Our economy and use of tax reform opportunities have helped pave the way for even stronger investment and business growth in 2018.

Most equate the recently passed 2017 Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as only the lessening of individual and corporate tax rates. To be clear, it certainly has done that. But there were also other opportunities in the bill that some did not realize could enhance investment from the private sector. These opportunities include keeping new market tax credits, private activity bonds, and historic tax credits in place. But a new tool that can be used in low-income communities (LICs) that could stimulate investments by lowering capital gains is what the federal Department of Treasury is calling “Opportunity Zones”.

Based on low-income areas, there are 1,276 census tracts in Ohio that meet the criteria. Governor Kasich submitted up to 25% of those eligible (319) to the Dept. of Treasury that would allow the use of that federal investment incentive. There are a number of these in Clark, Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties and beyond including sites in:  Xenia, Springfield, Trotwood, Fairborn and multiple sites in Dayton (Good Samaritan site, former fairgrounds site, parts of downtown Dayton and the former Delphi site on Home Avenue) that can qualify.

I would easily be a strong advocate for any of these or others to be named to the governor’s list (we will know by the time this piece goes to press). But one in particular needs the additional help of both public- and private-sector investment: the Wright Factory site at the former Delphi location on Home Avenue in west Dayton.

Our area had the foresight to help create the National Aviation Historic Park with both federal support and that of the private sector through the National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA). But we still have much work to do, especially in regards to preserving the Wright Factory location.

Obviously, the Wright Factory location should not only be a part of our heritage area, with its uniquely historical significance, but it also has the additional opportunity for further prime development along Third Street in west Dayton (in one of the possible federal Opportunity Zones).

Right now, the NAHA, under the leadership of its Executive Director Tony Sculimbrene, Board Chair LtGen C. D. Moore II, USAF (ret.), Judge Walter Rice and others, is working to acquire this site from a private developer in order to not only preserve the historic factory, but enhance development in a section of our region that is long overdue. The Dayton Metro Library is interested in a portion of the site for its west Dayton branch, but only if it can be acquired at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable time period. The state is supporting this effort as well as local government. But much more work needs to be done … soon … before the clock runs out on the library’s interest and Mr. Sculimbrene retires this August (along with his passion for this site).

I hope we can generate a stronger partnership with the city of Dayton, the state and private sector before we lose this site like we lost the Wright’s Bicycle Shop to Henry Ford and his Greenfield Village Museum. We were asleep at the wheel decades ago and that should have never happened. Let’s not snooze on this one. Contact NAHA to share your ideas and support its efforts.

To download a PDF of this article as it appeared in the Dayton Daily News, click here.

Phillip L. Parker, CAE, CCE
President & CEO
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce