CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Lawmakers from across the state were in the downtown Charleston on Friday to hear from small businesses about how opportunity zones are helping to revitalize part of the Lowcountry.
The Charleston Tech Center, which opened this year, is part of U.S. Senator Tim Scott’s ‘Opportunity Zones’ legislation, which is designed to bring money into impoverished areas and help turn things around.
Sen. Scott hosted former Speaker Paul Ryan along with US Representative Joe Wilson (2nd District), US Representative Ralph Norman (5th District), and staff from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s office during a trip to the tech center Friday afternoon.
They met for a discussion with some of the 37 companies who are now using the Charleston Tech Center.
“One of the things that we continue to do, as we travel the country, we’ve been doing tours now for almost four years, and we try to tell people – what we try to tell people is if it’s not working for the citizens, I will kill this legislation. I won’t wait for somebody else to do it,” said Sen. Scott.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan said he worked with Congressman and later Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Jack Kemp, many years ago on similar enterprise zones without much legislative success.
“I think the big benefit of Senator Scott‘s legislation is it’s brought tens of billions of dollars of capital into the poorest communities of America. That’s money that would’ve never come otherwise. It’s also brought in the private sector and the public sector to focus on getting people out of poverty, getting revitalized in these poor communities. So, this is an idea a lot of people fought for a long time. Tim Scott actually got it done.”
While he has traveled the country looking at opportunity zone projects, we asked Senator Scott, how did it feel to be looking at the results of his legislation just two miles from where he grew up.
“Well, that’s exciting,” he said. “This is probably more of an emotional time than when I’m in California or Pennsylvania or Colorado or Florida because I understand this is an area that’s always had high potential, and most people saw it at risk or nothing. This is never been nothing- it’s always been something. Someone lived here, someone worked here.”
Sen. Scott says they have seen less than 5% of gentrification in the opportunity zones. He believes this is proof the plan is working.
“This has to be a win-win; a win for investors, a win for citizens, and a win for America and so far, so good,” he said.
This is a 92,000-sq-ft building, but the developers of the Charleston Tech Center say they have additional land ready to be used to build another similar building in the future.