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Racine, Wis., Announces New Smart City Partnerships

The city has announced that U.S. Cellular is rolling out 5G there, fiber-optic cable it has installed, an incentive to reduce food waste and the potential of kiosks to share info about transportation, businesses and events.

(TNS) — One recurring theme at the Racine, Wis., Smart Cities Conference was the importance of partnerships for planning, financing and rolling out smart technologies.

It should be no surprise then that almost all of the announcements during the two-day conference on Wednesday and Thursday pertained to partnerships between the city and various entities with the aim to accomplish certain goals.

Wednesday’s biggest announcements were about U.S. Cellular rolling out 5G in Racine, fiber-optic cable the city has already installed, an incentive from InSinkErator to reduce food waste and the possibility of kiosks to share information about transportation, local businesses and events.

Thursday’s announcements pertained to a wide range of topics, from public safety to incentivizing development.

Opportunity zones update

Almost one year ago, the city announced plans to take advantage of a program through the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which allows investors to reinvest their capital gains within Opportunity Zones — Census tracts designated as needing and having potential for redevelopment — and in exchange receive a reduction on their capital gains tax.

According to a brief by the Congressional Research Service, the tax benefits kick in if the taxpayer holds onto the asset for at least five years; at 10 years they could qualify to completely write off any capital gains tax on the investment when sold.

The city of Racine has three Census tracts that have been designated opportunity zones — though Mayor Cory Mason half joked on Thursday that it should have received more: Tract 1 which encompasses Downtown Racine; Tract 4, the area just north of Downtown; and Tract 5 which is just west of the railroad tracks from Hamilton Street to just south of 16th Street and includes Uptown.

On Thursday, Mason and Terese Caro, chief lending officer at Legacy Redevelopment Corp., announced that the city of Racine is close to becoming the first Wisconsin community to set up an opportunity fund to connect investors with opportunity zone redevelopment projects and assure they receive tax benefits.

“We want to fuel the future by taking a leadership position,” said William Martin, the city’s chief innovation officer and the organizer of the Smart Cities conference.

Caro said the fund, called the “Forward Wisconsin Opportunity Fund,” is about 85% complete and it will be set up well before the federal government’s deadline on Dec. 31. Through the fund, investors can capitalize commercial, residential or industrial construction projects or new businesses and startups.

©2019 The Journal Times, Racine, Wisc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.