The Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZ) program has expanded by four counties for Fiscal Year 2015, bringing the total number of ROZ certified counties to 77. On July 1, Cherokee, Labette, Montgomery and Sumner counties joined the initiative designed to help bring new residents to rural Kansas after decades of population loss.

The ROZ program allows qualifying individuals who move to one of the 77 designated counties to have their state income taxes waived for up to five years. In addition, counties that opt to partner with the state may offer student loan repayments of up to $15,000. Currently, 70 counties have decided to join the student loan repayment program. Montgomery and Washington counties are the two most recent additions to this portion of the ROZ program.

"Rural Opportunity Zones have had a positive impact across our state, helping to bring new families and skilled workers to counties that have suffered population loss for generations," said Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George. "The most recent expansion of the program will bring those ROZ benefits to additional areas of southeast and south central Kansas."

The Department has received 1,654 applications for participation in the student loan repayment program from residents of 42 states. Applicants represent a wide variety of industries and educational backgrounds. Education, healthcare and agriculture are the most common careers of applicants.

For more information about the Rural Opportunity Zones program, click here.

The following counties have been certified by the Legislature as ROZ counties:

Allen, Anderson, Barber, Bourbon, Brown, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Clark, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Comanche, Decatur, Doniphan, Edwards, Elk, Ellsworth, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harper, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jackson, Jewell, Kearny, Kingman, Kiowa, Labette, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Meade, Mitchell, Montgomery, Morris, Morton, Nemaha, Neosho, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Ottawa, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Rawlins, Republic, Rice, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Scott, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Sumner, Trego, Thomas, Wabaunsee, Wallace, Washington, Wichita, Wilson and Woodson.