On June 21, 2019, Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD) hosted a regional convening on Opportunity Zones to spread awareness, share opportunities and encourage collaboration around a new program established through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Through the law, Opportunity Zones, or recently designates low income census tracts, offer new federal capital gains tax advantages to investors willing to finance projects and enterprises in these areas. With designated Opportunity Zones in all five of MCEDD’s five county region, MCEDD recognized the importance of keeping communities updated about the program and recent rulemaking.
The Hegewald Sunshine room in Stevenson was bursting with a packed house of attendees representing public and private sectors from MCEDD’s five county region. Attendees learned the 101 on Opportunity Zones and got up to speed on developing rules from Melissa LaFayette of the National Development Council. Stephen Brooks shared information around an Opportunity Zone project outreach initiative Brooks is developing with support from Pacific Northwest foundation funders. Nicknamed the “Oregon Model” but open to Washington and Idaho projects, the initiative provides a platform for project proponents within Opportunity Zones to prepare and share information and connect with investors. Dave Brown with Obsidian Opportunity Fund, talked about the implications of Opportunity Zones from an inventor perspective and addressed some of the challenges of using this model.
Presentations and Resources
- Presentation by Melissa Lafayette, West Coast Field Director with National Development Council
- Novogradac (accounting firm). Novogradac’s OZ resource center has articles about OZ and a listing of Opportunity Funds
- Presentation by Stephen Brooks, Director for the Oregon Opportunity Zones Initiative
- Basic Opportunity Zones FAQ .
The workshop finished off with a question for participants to chew on, “How can we use this financing vehicle to move forward regional economic development priorities?” Before close out, local community project developers within Opportunity Zones pitched their projects to attendees. MCEDD reminded the audiences of the five counties adopted community economic development priorities and encouraged conversation on how Opportunity Zones could be leveraged to support these already prioritized projects.
MCEDD encourages interested parties to reach out to learn more. Presenter contact information, presentations and additional resources from the event can be shared out upon request. To identify whether your project is located in an Opportunity Zones, search by address through the Economic Innovation Group website.