On September 13, the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) hosted a webinar to discuss the continued need for capacity building and technical assistance in Opportunity Zones (OZ), and ongoing efforts to provide local leaders with the support they need to advance community and economic development.
EIG’s Catherine Lyons opened the webinar by sharing OZ updates and resources, including Novogradac’s most recent OZ investment report (Data Through June 30, 2022) and the status of the Opportunity Zones Transparency, Extension, and Improvement Act of 2022 (OZTEIA). Rachel Reilly of Aces & Archers then provided background on the proliferation and activities of local OZ initiatives, and shared insights on the continued need for capacity building and technical assistance in OZ communities. Reilly noted that funding to support most local OZ initiatives was term-limited, and that the State and Local Dynamism Fund proposal included in the OZTEIA could provide the resources needed to recapitalize these efforts.
Guest speakers from place-based OZ initiatives led by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) shared insights on lessons learned to-date, and how their work in OZs over the past years has informed continued efforts to advance community and economic development.
Robin Schabes leads the Chicagoland Opportunity Zones Consortium (COZC) which is hosted by local CDFI, the Chicago Community Loan Fund. COZC convenes CDFIs, public-sector leaders, philanthropy and others working in Chicago & Suburban Cook County to maximize the OZ policy by working collectively and collaboratively to ensure the local OZ landscape is speaking with one voice.
- From 2020 – 2021, COZC focused on organizing the local OZ ecosystem by creating a centralized hub for education, technical assistance, marketing local OZs, cross-sector networking, and to address other needs identified by consortium members. Schabes stated that by democratizing information, COZC aims to ensure high-impact projects come to fruition.
- Building upon their success to-date and the lessons learned over the past two years, COZC will continue to focus on strengthening the Chicagoland OZs by fostering a collaborative ecosystem with increased impact. Priorities for 2022 – 2023 include: increasing the amount of OZ investment in Chicagoland, broadening the base of local actors, and creating an enabling environment through new OZ tools and incentives, among other levers.
Ray Daffner discussed the current efforts of Opportunity Appalachia, an initiative of regional CDFI Appalachia Community Capital, and how the initiative has been expanded beyond OZs. Over the past two years, Opportunity Appalachia has provided the technical assistance, knowledge-sharing, and networking needed to build entrepreneurial downtown and rural communities where thriving local businesses create quality jobs for residents and revitalize local economies.
- From 2020 – 2021, Opportunity Appalachia provided the technical assistance needed to prepare 17 projects in Appalachian communities across three states for OZ investment. Daffner provided examples of projects sponsored by public and private actors to create catalytic projects that would create affordable housing, childcare facilities, as well as retail, office, and hospitality space; all of which are critical for jumpstarting and strengthening local economies.
- Based on the 2020 – 2021 pilot initiative, Opportunity Appalachia has expanded its work to be inclusive of, but not limited to, OZ tracts and investment. For Phase II, 34 projects have been selected across five states, 18 of which are located in OZs. Daffner closed by saying that, due to Opportunity Appalachia’s work, there has been a shift in investor perspective in regard to investable opportunities in Appalachian communities. Both traditional and OZ-motivated investors have demonstrated an increased interest in deploying capital to Appalachia.
- Recordings of EIG’s OZ Webinar Series
- Webinar recap: Analysis of the new Opportunity Zones Transparency, Extension, and Improvement Act (April 2022)
- Arctaris Impact Investors: 2021 Impact Report
- Sorenson Impact Center: Rural Opportunity Zone and Recovery Playbook
- Purdue’s Rural Opportunity Zones Initiative: Showcase – “Lessons Learned” from working with Indiana rural communities to develop their OZs.
Visit EIG’s OZ Resources webpage for additional information including deal profiles, mapped activity, and recordings of previous webinars.