The Kansas Department of Commerce has announced that the Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZ) program will expand during Fiscal Year 2014. The expanded program will include 23 additional counties approved to participate in ROZ by the Kansas Legislature during the 2013 session.
“By bringing the Rural Opportunity Zones program to these additional counties, Kansas will be able to expand its efforts to ensure that we have a steady population and strong workforce in rural counties,” said Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George. “I look forward to working with the newly designated Rural Opportunity Zone counties to help them attract the businesses and workers who will drive our state’s economy forward.”
In 2011, Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature established the ROZ program in 50 counties as a means of countering the rural flight that has caused many Kansas counties to lose population over the past several decades. The ROZ program allows qualifying individuals who move to a ROZ county to have their state income taxes waived for up to five years. In addition, counties that opt to partner with the state may offer student loan repayments of up to $15,000.
Grant and Gray counties, two of the newly designated ROZ counties, have already voted to partner with the state in the student loan repayment program.
“We are excited to be included in the recent expansion of the Rural Opportunity Zones program,” said Bob Dale, Grant County Economic Development director. “Grant County commissioners enthusiastically passed the resolution to participate in the student loan repayment option at their first opportunity, and here at Economic Development we already have a ROZ inquiry that looks promising to bring us a new restaurant. It is a great program for rural Kansas.”
Since July 2011, the Department has received 864 applications for participation in the student loan repayment program from residents of 39 states. Applicants represent a wide variety of industries, with education and healthcare as the two largest professions.
For more information about the Rural Opportunity Zones program, please visit KansasCommerce.com/RuralOpportunityZones.
The following counties have been certified by the Legislature as ROZ counties:
Allen, Anderson, Barber, Bourbon, Brown, Chase, Chautauqua, Cheyenne, Clark, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Comanche, Decatur, Doniphan, Edwards, Elk, Ellsworth, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harper, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jackson, Jewell, Kearny, Kingman, Kiowa, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Meade, Mitchell, Morris, Morton, Nemaha, Neosho, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Ottawa, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Rawlins, Republic, Rice, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Scott, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Trego, Thomas, Wabaunsee, Wallace, Washington, Wichita, Wilson and Woodson.