Investing In Distressed Communities. Opportunity ZonesMorgan Gertler
Ramon Ray got a chance to talk with Scott Turner, the Executive Director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, which is quite a mouthful, so you can refer to it as WHORC. Their conversation definitely has to do with small business success and entrepreneurial support, but the journey is a little different than our normal conversations. Basically, this is the government’s response to helping disadvantaged communities, but Scott helps explain to us why we should care and why it’s important. And of course, how it supports local business.
Opportunity Zones and What They Are
When you hear people talk about WHORC from the White House, that’s a counsel. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law in 2017 by POTUS and out of that law came the Opportunity Zones legislation and initiative. From a high level overview, Opportunity Zones are those communities in America that have a lower median income and have a higher poverty rate. They often have a high crime rate and lack of quality education, as well. These are considered vulnerable communities, or distressed communities.
The focus is to take the White House Council, (which consists of 15 federal agencies and three state & regional partners) is to streamline + coordinate these resources from a federal standpoint. Partnerships help bring long-term sustainability including economic development, entrepreneurship, safe neighborhoods, expanded workforce, and education. The council brings these to the distressed communities to create impact.
So the spirit of this initiative is economic development as well as community development & social impact. These Opportunity Zones can thrive and benefit from the revitalization that’s taking place inside of these cities. You can read more at opportunityzones.gov which is a great resource for seeing the work of the council, pictures, news, and a one year report detailing recent work.
How It Helps SMB’s
The entrepreneurs and business owners in these cities and communities can benefit from the incentives. It basically tells people: Hey, look here, look at these other places, put your money here, help the community. Scott says that one of the beauties of leading this counsel and shepherding the initiative is that they go into cities, (Scott’s been to 65 cities over the last year) and sit at the table with the elected officials. community leaders, faith leaders, education leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners. The conversations transcend political, ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds and talk about the pain of that community. It all gets laid out on the table so the strategy to bring about real outcomes can be discussed.
“So what I say to entrepreneurs is…this is a great opportunity for you. If you want to be a business owner, what assets does your community have that can attract investment? What skills are you bringing that can attract investment or mentors that come alongside you to start their business, to create wealth and be a blessing to your family today and beyond to develop? As you know, we’re working with the cities, we’re working with business people, we’re working with community people. How do we make it better for you to come in and get rid of the red tape and the bureaucracy and all of the barrier that keep you from building in the confines of what’s right in this community?” – Scott Turner
With the world finally taking a more serious stand against systemic racism and injustice, the team that makes up the WHORC has a bigger job than ever before. All eyes are focused on how our country can begin to better support the communities that are in need of funding and extra hand holding. The council has a department dedicated to investors that create Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOF), which have the flexibility to invest in equipment, buildings, property, and businesses.