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Community Conversations about Opportunity Zones

Opportunity Funds represent a new community reinvestment opportunity for California lower income neighborhoods.  As such, they are sparking conversations and collaborative engagements between economic and business development professionals.  California Forward, who serves as the secretariat for the California Economic Summit, is a lead partner on several of these conversations.

In May 2018, California Forward (CA Fwd) and the Parker Foundation hosted a conversation in San Francisco, which focused on how California can maximize the use of the Opportunity Zone to direct private capital investment into lower income communities across the state.   According to a summary of the proceeding, the central issue discussed was on how state and local agencies can organize to attract private equity capital.  The PowerPoint from Stonehenge Capital Company assisted the group in better understanding the investor's perspective, a key consideration when California will be competing against OZs in 49 other states.  The summary includes a list of major take-aways, next steps, and a timeline for action. Here is the agenda for the May 2018 roundtable.  Next Steps included:

1. State policy framework: CA Fwd, in partnership with other members of the group, could continue to engage experts and advocates to analyze and understand the potential impacts of OZs in California—and to develop proposals for state policy to increase the potential for social impact. An effort like this would require quantitative analysis regarding the impact on state and local revenues, as well as alignment with existing investments and tax expenditures. Proposals could be tracked through the 2018 CA Economic Summit in November, where participants could review, comment on, and potentially support proposals for consideration in the 2019-20 legislative cycle.

2. State implementation activities: The Administration described an inter-agency approach to technical assistance that could be critical to the success of California’s early adopters—and could also model a more pragmatic way for the state to engage with communities and regions on development plans that require approval or investments from multiple state agencies. CA Fwd and other participants could partner with the state to help them develop, evaluate and refine that model to support the development of OZs and to assess how that model could be broadened to align public agencies on projects with significant potential to improve economic opportunities.

3. Early adopters: Even the early adopters are on a steep learning curve. CA Fwd could work with partners to identify those early projects, convene and share ideas among them, and distribute that information statewide to increase understanding and connect community level leaders. The early projects will provide an opportunity for analyzing potential economic, environmental, and equity impacts and could also help inform state policy requirements.

Work product stemming from this and additional convenings will be presented at the November 2018 California Economic Summit in Santa Rosa.

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