BRUNSWICK — Local officials advocated for – and welcome – the inclusion of large tracts of land in Bath and Brunswick in a new federal tax incentive program. But how the new opportunity zones will trigger economic growth remains unknown.

The program allows investors to create “opportunity funds” through which they can reinvest capital gains – profits from the sale of investments – into designated areas tax-free for up to 10 years, then get a 15 percent tax break on the initial investment.

Selected areas in Bath and Brunswick have significant assets that could help attract and leverage new private investment through an opportunity fund, said Doug Ray, spokesman for the Maine Department of Economic Community Development. The governor selected the 32 communities for inclusion in the federal program.

The opportunity zone in Brunswick encompasses the roughly 3,000 acres at the site of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, as well as a large chunk of east Brunswick.

Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority charged with developing the former base, was pleased with the designation.

“When the state was looking for qualified zones and asked for input, we certainly thought that a closed, shuttered military base should qualify because it met a lot of criteria for redevelopment potential,” Levesque said.

He said he would educate himself more on the program so that the redevelopment authority can talk with investors about it.

Similarly, Brunswick’s economic and community development director, Linda Smith, who advocated for the Brunswick designation in recent months, said it is a tool she plans to use.

“To be blunt, any time we have an opportunity to go after anything we do, because if there’s a chance to benefit the community or our businesses, we always try to chase it,” she said.

Bath Assistant City Manager Marc Meyers said the city had recommended that the state include two tracts in Bath as opportunity zones, although only one – which encompasses the southern part of the city below the viaduct – made the cut.

“It’s unclear what the impact is really going to be for us yet,” he said.

Bath Housing Executive Director Deborah Keller made a similar comment.

“Because (the U.S.) Treasury hasn’t released the rules, we don’t know what the impact of this is yet, especially as it relates to housing,” Keller said in an email.

Bath Iron Works, which is located in an opportunity zone, declined to comment.

Nathan Strout contributed to this report.

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