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Opportunity Zone Investment Prospectus Guide

A How-To for Opportunity Zones

About the Authors

Bruce Katz is the co-founder (with Jeremy Nowak) of New Localism Advisors and the inaugural director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University. He is the co-author (with Jeremy Nowak) of The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism.

Ken Gross is the Founder and Principal of Quantitative Innovations. He previously served as a Senior Associate at The Reinvestment Fund, the Philadelphia-based community development finance institution founded by Jeremy Nowak.

Overview

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 provides a new incentive—centered around the deferral, reduction, and elimination of capital gains taxes—to spur private investments in low-income areas designated by states as Opportunity Zones. This provision is based heavily on the Investing in Opportunity Act (S. 1639) introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC). Given the significant interest among investors, it is possible that this new tax incentive could attract hundreds of billions of dollars in private capital, making this one of the largest economic development initiatives in U.S. history.  

The broad objective of this new tax incentive—expanding economic opportunities for places and people left behind—cannot be achieved by the market and outside investors alone. Cities in the broadest sense—local governments for sure but also universities, philanthropies, employers, local financial institutions and community development organizations—will need to act with deliberate agency and purpose if Opportunity Zones are to spur growth that is inclusive, sustainable and truly transformative for each city’s economy.

To enable such intentional action, Accelerator for America engaged New Localism Advisors to create a replicable product—an Investment Prospectus—to enable cities, counties and states to communicate their competitive advantages, trigger local partnerships and identify sound projects that are ready for public, private and civic capital.  Our aim was to help communities and investors get smarter and more precise about the broad range of investment possibilities that exist in Opportunity Zones and, literally, help make and shape markets where there were none.

To date, mayors in five cities—Joe Schember in Erie, Greg Fischer in Louisville, David Holt in Oklahoma City, Pete Buttigieg in South Bend and Michael Tubbs in Stockton—have led multi-sector efforts to design and release the first versions of an Investment Prospectus. The five cities have deliberately followed a common template and routinized format in order to enhance the potential for replicability across multiple cities.

We have created this Opportunity Zone Investment Prospectus Guide to speed the process by which a broad group of cities adopt this market tool and build Investment Prospectuses that are customized to local assets and advantages and scalable across cities by asset classes and product types. Our ambitions are large: to grow the number of cities with Investment Prospectuses from our original five cities to fifty communities by March 2019 and unveil them at an Investors Summit at Stanford University.

Using the Louisville effort as a base, this document walks through each core element of the Investment Prospectus unveiling, where appropriate, information about the source of data, why the data was chosen, and what cities should do with it. Accelerator for America and New Localism Advisors have partnered with the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University and identified institutions like PolicyMap to ease the replication process and codify best practices.

Download the Louisville Prospectus Here & Follow Along with this Guide [PDF]

Acknowledgments

The creation of an Opportunity Zone Investment Prospectus has drawn on the work and expertise of many people.

First, and foremost, we owe Jeremy Nowak an incalculable debt of gratitude. Jeremy was a friend, mentor and fellow traveler and a constant source of inspiration, imagination and agitation. He was present at the creation of the Investment Prospectus and his handiwork, in measures large and small, can be seen throughout. The Investment Prospectus represents his unyielding confidence that market tools could mobilize capital for disadvantaged communities and people, a vision that is at the heart of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University. Working with Jeremy was the joy of our professional lives.

Our colleagues at the Accelerator for America—Eric Garcetti, Rick Jacobs, Yoomee Ha and Aaron Thomas—have been exceptional partners. They are truly first movers on Opportunity Zones, recognizing that this federal tax incentive could be a vehicle for connecting capital and community and that the incentive’s success or failure depends on cities taking and scaling action.

Our colleagues at the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation have been a key part of the process. We thank Ryan Debold for his strategic guidance and creative design, Michael Greenle for his sharp editing and Danielle Swan and Mary Tredway for keeping the trains running on time. We also thank John Fry and Harris Steinberg for their unwavering commitment to the Nowak Metro Finance Lab.

Roni Lagin was responsible for the original design of the Investment Prospectus; we thank him for his remarkable ability to communicate complex ideas in clear and compelling ways.

Five exceptional mayors—Joe Schember in Erie, Greg Fischer in Louisville, David Holt in Oklahoma City, Pete Buttigieg in South Bend and Michael Tubbs in Stockton—gave us their time and insight and helped organize public, private and civic leaders (usually with little notice) to sharpen our thinking and amplify local expertise. They are true leaders at a time when the country is desperate for leadership.

Mayors excel when they build great teams, within and outside government. To that end, we want to thank John Persinger, Matt Wachter and Brett Wiler in Erie, Eric Burnette, Katie Dailinger and Mary Ellen Wiederwohl in Louisville, Steve Hill and Cathy O’Connor in Oklahoma City, Brian Donoghue, Scott Ford, Suzanna Fritzberg and James Mueller in South Bend and Micah Runner in Stockton.

The invention and deployment of the Investment Prospectus, in short, has been a team effort. We look forward to working with individuals across the country to maximize the impact of this tool.