COLUMBIA, SC (WCBD) – Thursday was a big day for members of a Columbia church. Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Senator Tim Scott were at the Meeting Place Church to talk about redevelopment in some of the state’s economically distressed areas.

One shopping mall in Columbia has been essentially abandoned for the past decade, but two years ago the Meeting Place Church decided to invest in the plaza, showing that even these areas are zones of opportunity.

“We began to breathe life into this community because we believed it was an opportunity here now we stand in this moment because of the development that has transpired,” said Bishop Eric Freeman. 

Bishop Freeman of the Meeting Place Church Of Greater Columbia highlighted the church’s success in developing forgotten areas to a small crowd of church members and the Vice President of the United States.

“In 2016 we purchased this property,” he recalled.  “When we acquired it the property had been declared dead.”

Revitalization is the goal of the Investing in Opportunity Act spearheaded by United States Senator Scott. 

“If you look at our unemployment we are at a historic low. Investments are at a historic high, but there are places in our nation where the recovery has been uneven,” said Sen. Scott.

The Investing in Opportunity Act offers tax breaks to companies in exchange for investments in low-income communities. The companies would be invested in developing blighted properties, improving infrastructure, and bringing more businesses to the area.

“The truth is opportunity zones help address unique needs by forming partnerships at the federal level with regard to tax benefits, state and local leaders and local investors to make that incentive to make it even more possible for people to invest,” said Vice President Pence.

And for those who live in these areas and have seen the change over time, they are hopeful this initiative will help restore the place they call home.

“It was a little disturbing to see it wasn’t moving forward and thriving but it’s encouraging to see it’s a possibility of it growing again. This is the beginning of it, that’s amazing,” said pastor Johnny Owens of Greenview Baptist Church.

South Carolina has a total of 128 low-income communities designated as “opportunity zones” including areas in Greenville, Greenwood and Anderson counties.

The legislation also encourages long term commitment. So, the longer a company stays in the area, the more of a tax break they’ll be eligible for over the years.