Throughout Part Three of EIG’s Opportunity Zones Webinar Series, a variety of speakers reported on the progress made in the communities of Washington. They also broke down their goals and plans for progress in upcoming years. These speakers included the National Development Council, Northstar Opportunity Zone and Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone.
Highlighted themes of the webinar included the importance of education on projects along with investor logistics in communities. The importance of collaboration was specifically addressed in regard to working with community leaders, specifically in tribal settings. When asked what success would look like in the eyes of the panelists, their reply was that they hope to continue building relationships and increasing community involvement.
One concern raised throughout the webinar was the difficulty of measuring impact. Impact measurement is not currently required by law and this is currently looking to be reformed by the Washington State Department of Commerce. However, it is widely thought that investors are eager to invest in unique, yet well thought out proposals. And the inclusion of established organizations such as HUD can be of assistance when pitching risky investment proposals.
It is thought that the best way to have the largest positive impact on a group and community is to listen to the needs of the organization and commit to helping in their development no matter the stage of project. Multiple organizations are scheduling “listening tours” and increasing collaboration efforts as well. Websites are also a tool that has been utilized in increasing community mobility and is particularly helpful when educating urban areas on rural projects.
An area of growing concern is finding housing for workers of the projects being implemented. Additionally, many projects need assistance in the predevelopment stages of the project around things such as planning costs and feasibility data. Financial modeling along with development concepts and eligibility are critical components of Community-led Opportunity Zone Projects and should not be overlooked throughout the community mobilization process.
There are times when a group has a project proposal but they are hesitant to begin their proposal because they are unsure of the investor process. Educating communities about not only the economic development process and the protocol for being “investment ready” is a crucial component. However, the public must also be educated on how to not only react to and benefit from projects, but also how to engage with and help to develop them in their communities as well.
To learn more about EIG’s work on opportunity zones, visit their website here.