The Gulf Opportunity Zone or GO Zone is an area of the American South where special business incentives were made available after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005 under the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act passed by Congress. Businesses in this region can qualify for a number of benefits designed to help businesses rebuild, as well as attracting businesses to the area to replace businesses lost or seriously damaged by the hurricanes. Funding for a number of projects benefiting citizens of the region, such as increases in low income housing credits, was also made available.
Three US states have counties or parishes classified as part of the Gulf Opportunity Zone: Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The counties and parishes were selected on the basis of storm damage incurred and input from government agencies. People doing business and living in counties outside the designed area are not eligible for benefits under the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act, but may be eligible for other government services, depending on their location. Agencies providing support and services to people outside the designated area can provide more information on benefits.
In Alabama, Baldwin, Clarke, Hale, Choctaw, Mobile, Pickens, Sumter, Marengo, Tuscaloosa, Greene, and Washington counties are covered by the act. The Louisiana parishes designated as part of the Gulf Opportunity Zone are Acadia, Tangipahoa, Ascension, Calcasieu, Lafayette, Cameron, East Feliciana, Iberia, St. Bernard, Iberville, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Helena, St. James, Jefferson Davis, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Assumption, Pointe Coupee, St. Charles, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Terrebonne, East Baton Rouge, Vermilion, Washington, West Baton Rouge, St. John the Baptist, and West Feliciana.
Mississippi counties include: Adams, Amite, Attala, Choctaw, Lawrence, Claiborne, Rankin, Copiah, Covingto, Franklin, George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Holme, Jackson, Jasper, Warren, Jefferson, Forrest, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Stone, Kemper, Lamar, Lauderdale, Leake, Lincoln, Lowndes, Madison, Humphreys, Marion, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Pearl River, Perry, Pike, Scott, Simpson, Clarke, Smith, Walthall, Wayne, Wilkinson, Winston, and Yazoo.
Two benefits under the legislation are of particular relevance. The first was the provision of tax-exempt bonds, through 31 December 2010, for use in financing rebuilding opportunities. Bonds had to be approved by the governor of the state or a committee and could be used for a wide variety of projects involving many types of businesses. In addition, businesses were entitled to a one time 50% bonus depreciation for any property put in service before 2008, with the exception of certain types of real estate, given a 2009 deadline. Both benefits were designed to encourage investment in regrowth and expansion to promote recovery of industry and business in communities damaged by the hurricanes.