There is a lot not to like in the new tax legislation coming down from Washington. But as with any tax bill, there are opportunities to be found. The trouble is, local governments have not been as adept as Fortune 500 companies in combing through complex legislation to identify benefits. That’s why a major focus of Accelerator for America is helping cities take advantage of the Opportunity Zone program found in the new tax bill, and we are doing so in that help individual cities and create templates and networks to help cities all across America.
In brief, the Opportunity Zone incentive is aimed at sparking long-term investment in distressed and under-resourced neighborhoods through unlocking private capital in the form of unrealized capital gains. And with Washington so dysfunctional, and at a time when wages have been stagnant for 40 years and healthcare, housing and education costs are skyrocketing, it is incumbent on local governments to help their people themselves. We cannot count on Washington to act, especially when it comes to underserved communities.
The Accelerator is helping lead two major opportunity zone initiatives. The first is our work with the mayors of Louisville, KY; Oklahoma City, OK; and South Bend, IN to help them develop Opportunity Zone Investment Prospectuses for their cities. Part marketing strategy, part economic development analysis, and part private investment memorandum, developing these prospectuses gives cities the ability to evaluate what they have to offer and what they need to succeed, while soliciting development in a detailed but digestible manner. In partnership with Bruce Katz and his New Localism Advisors, the goal here is to use these three cities’ work product as templates for other cities to follow.
The second is the California Opportunity Zone Partnership, which we just launched with the help of California Treasurer John Chiang, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. San Francisco Mayor London Breed is also a partner of this initiative where larger cities will help smaller cities take advantage of opportunity zones, with the lessons learned being turned into new state policies and legislation.
We launched the partnership in San Francisco at the same time as the Global Climate Action Summit, and we were proud that the Accelerator meeting held right afterward attracted such a high level gathering of leaders in business, labor, finance, non-profits and government. The conversation was dynamic, productive and encouraging. But now comes the real work: engaging these and other stakeholders to build a pipeline of projects that create jobs and foster economic security, all while maintaining a commitment to environmental sustainability and energy efficiency. Put simply, we cannot let Opportunity Zones turn into something that drives underserved people out of their own neighborhoods. We must make sure they empower the people who need help the most.