Opportunity Zones: History and Background
The Opportunity Zone (OZ) Program was established by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Opportunity Zones are an incentive device meant to stimulate growth in economically distressed communities by rewarding patient, long-term capital investments in those communities.
In April, Governor Holcomb selected 156 qualifying, low-income census tracts with the help of a group of advisors from around the State. All 156 sites were subsequently approved by the Treasury Department and are now designated Opportunity Zones.
Rural Opportunity Zone Initiative (ROZI): Program Overview
To help rural communities deploy this new financing tool, OCRA collaborated with Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) to submit an application to USDA-RD for the Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG). The purpose of the project is to build the capacity of rural-based Opportunity Zones in Indiana to attract private, public and/or philanthropic sector resources through the development and implementation of a locally-driven Opportunity Zone Investment Prospectus.
The goals of the Rural Business Enterprise Grant are as follows:
- Inform and educate local officials, organizations and residents located in Indiana’s Rural Opportunity Zones about the key elements of the Opportunity Zone legislation.
- Identify and recruit Rural Opportunity Zones that are committed to producing an economic development prospectus to guide and attract private, public and philanthropic investments.
- Develop and market the Opportunity Zone Investment Portfolios of the targeted sites.
- Support the launch of economic development-related programs in interested Opportunity Zones.
- Develop and track key metrics to determine the impacts of the RBEG in launching economic development activities and attracting investments that improve the economic health of the targeted sites.
What’s a Prospectus?
A community prospectus is a marketing document that showcases key investor-ready, locally supported projects in the Opportunity Zone. The goal of the document is to articulate a compelling story about the community’s unique vision, priorities and competitive assets for economic renewal.
An effective prospectus should give communities a format to organize how they think about and carry out evidence-based economic development in the designated zone. It should also provide a new way for municipalities and other stakeholders to reflect on their unique market strengths so they can more successfully execute strategies for attracting investment to qualified OZ projects such as new or significantly refurbished buildings, reactivated historic, vacant properties, stakes in new growth companies, mixed-use developments and more.
To kick off the program, OCRA completed an initial assessment of the 156 Indiana Opportunity Zones that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Treasury utilizing the USDA-RD definition. Forty-six of these sites were deemed to be rural opportunity zones based on the OCRA analysis.
These 46 ROZI-Eligible Communities were invited to apply. Selected applicants would receive technical assistance and capacity-building support provided by a statewide team of university and agency professionals.
On March 25, 2021, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, in partnership with the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), announced a second round of the Rural Opportunity Zone Initiative. Six additional communities were selected for ROZI Round 2 cohort including:
City of Delphi, Rush County, Putnam County, City of Connersville,City of Princeton and Starke County
What types of projects are eligible for OZ Investment?
Opportunity Zone legislation allows for the creation of projects in several categories including: housing, hospitality, business operations and industry.
Example projects include:
- Multi-Unit Senior housing, for members of your community 55+ who are looking to downsize and age in place;
- A new hotel at a busy highway intersection;
- Creating an attractive industrial park; and
- Revitalizing a historical building and turning it into office spaces and commercial shops.
Program Notes: What the State ROZI Team Brings to the Table
Selected communities will receive technical support resulting in the completion of a prospectus to attract investment.
Additional support may include:
- Team building guidance to establish OZ Core Action and Advisory Teams;
- Community engagement support-Focus group report summarizing input from residents who live within the Opportunity Zone;
- Proprietary data products that profile types of properties in the area;
- Assessment of key economic drivers and market strengths;
- Profile of existing businesses and companies in the zone and surrounding areas;
- Transportation infrastructure and connectivity;
- Discovering the area’s community/economic development assets;
- Project suitability analysis; and
- Mapping of broadband services in the zone.
Program Notes: What the Community Brings to the Table
Participant communities are expected to work alongside the state team to:
- Assemble and review any locally-driven planning documents already developed (not exclusively for those areas within the designated opportunity zone);
- Identify any current projects and/or recent community projects completed in the past 3-5 years;
- Review local incentives and/or consider potential local incentives to augment project deal structuring;
- Attend a Focus Group, Workshops, Monthly Peer Calls;
- Communicate regularly with a designated point of contact from the ROZI State Team;
- Create diverse team of key stakeholders such as property owners, businesses, residents, etc. Located in the OZ; and
- Utilize the prospectus to attract investment while treating it as a living document requiring attention to maintain it.
Learn more about the ROZI program
PCRD: ROZI Phase 1- https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/6ac2fa22e4df4731a37a5f3c62e1efcd
Round 1 Final Prospectus
Other Useful Links and Opportunity Zone Resources
Opportunity Investment Consortium of Indiana - https://www.opportunityinvestmentconsortium.com/
The Opportunity Exchange - https://www.theopportunityexchange.com/resources/learn
If you have any questions regarding the Opportunity Zone program, please contact Julie Rigrish, Regional Director and Engagement Specialist at the Purdue Center for Regional Development.