AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — South Carolina Senator Tim Scott started the “Opportunity Zones Program” in 2017. It focuses on low-income areas where businesses get tax breaks for bringing in ready-made business.
President Donald Trump recognized the opportunity zones during the State of the Union Address. He says 9,000 investors are bringing their businesses to neglected areas. The All- America City is one of those areas.
“In Aiken, we are very optimistic about this large scale federal program that gives some real benefits to people with capital gains that is going to spur investment,” explained said Aiken’s Economic Development Director Tim O’Briant. “But it hasn’t happened quite yet.”
It’s been Aiken’s top priority to bring more development to low-income areas. The city has several projects, but the vacant Save-A-Lot property is the main one. Recently, a new store opened for business in the opportunity zone.
“There is a lot of walking traffic, and there are a lot of community areas like housing. I just knew this place would be a great marketing area,” said Victor Fuewell.
Victor Fuewell is the owner of Marathon Kickz, on the intersection of Hampton Avenue and York Street. He says after years of selling rare shoes online, he decided to open shop in his neighborhood.
“Once I saw that I could sell my shoes on e-Bay and it was very profitable, I started going to sneaker conventions,” Explained Fuewell. “So it gave me the idea to open up a store for the community.”
The goal of the opportunity zone is to blossom these neighborhoods. Fuewell says his store is playing a role in bringing people in and keeping kids out of trouble.
“They’re in here for hours looking at shoes,” said Fuewell. “They’re also able to trade some shoes they have at the house for another pair. It keeps them in the store a lot.”
Marathon Kickz has been open for business for about three weeks. The owner hopes his company can be the stepping stone for other investors to bring their businesses on this side of town.
“People are just afraid to give it a chance because of the crime over this way,” said Fuewell. “So investors are kind of afraid to open up a business because they afraid of the crime.”
Victor Fuewell says opening Marathon Kickz was step one. Step two is revitalizing the car wash next to it, adding another new business in the opportunity zone.