According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury and DDEC, Puerto Rico was given preferential treatment with respect to designating census tracts as QOZs. This preferential treatment resulted in all low-income census tracts in Puerto Rico being designated as QOZs. Because Puerto Rico has a poverty rate of 43.1%, approximately 98% of Puerto Rico’s landmass is a QOZ. A similar proportion of SPREDD’s landmass is also designated as an QOZ, as only a single census tract (72113073008) in Ponce is NOT a QOZ. In essence, CEDS for the region and the QOZ are in lockstep.
Comparatively, only 25% of the census tracts in a state can be designated as QOZs.
With respect to the regional perspective, Puerto Rico became one the first jurisdictions of the United States to enact legislation to complement QOZs. The Government of Puerto Rico approved Act 21-2019, known as “2019 Puerto Rico’s Opportunity Zones and Economic Development Act (Act 21).” The purpose of Act 21 was to “transform the Island into an idyllic jurisdiction for investments.” Later, Act 21 was incorporated into Act 60-2019, known as Puerto Rico’s Incentive Code.
Because of the preferential treatment provided to Puerto Rico, as well as the additional benefits provided under the Puerto Rico Incentive Code, the Department of Economic Development and Commerce of Puerto Rico (DEDC) has dedicated considerable resources to promoting QOZ development and investing. SPREDD will work closely with DEDC to advance QOZ investing and development.
The primary public interface for SPREDD is www.eddpr.org. This site will provide considerable information about the QOZs in the region and the benefits afforded. SPREDD will also be committed to working with private developers seeking to take advantage of the benefits provided by QOZs, especially when the plans advance initiatives in whole or in part. Adding cold storage capacity at Mercedita International Airport in Ponce would be an example.
Map 1: Opportunity Zones in Puerto Rico. Light green are QOZ tracts designated in the 2010 Census; darker green represents QOZ tracts updated in the 2020 Census. The uncolored space in the Ponce municipality is the only tract in the SPREDD region not designated a QOZ. Source: Policy Map and U.S. Department of the Treasury