Created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the Opportunity Zones (OZs) tax incentive is designed to spur economic development and job creation in designated areas. Since the inception of the Opportunity Zones initiative, philanthropy has and continues to play an evolving role in helping to seed the success of the initiative. Committed to improving outcomes for vulnerable populations, philanthropic organizations serve as advocates, conveners, thought leaders, connectors and breeding grounds of innovation. Philanthropies across the country are working with local government officials, community and business leaders to ensure that the needs of our country’s most vulnerable remain at the forefront of the initiative, while investing in strategies and concepts that promote socially responsible outcomes. Some strategies and concepts include foundations seeding funds that help mitigate investment risks and attract investors to economically distressed areas, hosting convenings to bring various and nontraditional partners together, and publishing research and education about OZs.
Major funders such as the Rockefeller and Kresge Foundations joined forces to fund the development of the Opportunity Zone Reporting Framework Tool. The Kresge Foundation partnered with two impact fund managers and committed $22 million dollars to back their established Opportunity Zone Funds. The Rockefeller Foundation also seeded the creation and placement of Chief Opportunity Zone Officers throughout various parts of the country. Local foundations such as the Abell Foundation in Baltimore spearheaded such innovative philanthropy, by funding the establishment of an Opportunity Zone Coordinator, tasked with connecting potential investors with socially responsible projects. The Cleveland and George Gund Foundations partnered with community organizations, municipalities, state and regional partners to fund the establishment of OpportunityCLE, a collaborative effort designed to bolster and generate economic development in the Greater Cleveland area, through the development of affordable housing and job creation. The Knight Foundation funded the development of a report titled, How Philanthropies Leverage Opportunity Zones, which outlines various ways in which philanthropic organizations can engage in the Opportunity Zone initiative.
HUD sponsored Opportunity Zone Webinars:
The White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council and HUD hosted a webinar series for local economic development leaders and stakeholders in communities with designated Opportunity Zones (OZs). Recordings to these trainings will be posted here: https://www.hudexchange.info/news/bolstering-growth-in-opportunity-zones-leveraging-public-and-private-resources-webinar-series/
HUD hosted a Philanthropic Roundtable on Effectively Developing Strategies on Opportunity Zones. The roundtable was held on September 10, 2019, to solicit feedback on how best to stimulate the economic development of urban and economically distressed areas, including qualified opportunity zones economic development organizations to further the Opportunity Zones efforts. This roundtable was in consultation with key philanthropic stakeholders to highlight existing efforts to advance the success of Opportunity Zones.
To stay updated on important information and follow the work of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council visit this website.
To stay on top of Opportunity Zone Council action items, Executive Director Scott Turner’s travel and outreach, and latest news, sign up for the Opportunity Zones mailing list here.
Opportunity Zones Toolkit Volume 1: A roadmap to help communities plan for potential investments in Opportunity Zones by understanding local needs, aligning community assets, establishing regulatory tools and financing incentives to support investments, and forming partnerships toward equitable and inclusive community development.