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Initiative aims to help cities build a pipeline of projects and small business investments that move beyond the early stages of planning and attract private investment in economically distressed areas.
The Rockefeller Foundation has pledged $3.7m in grants that will benefit four US cities to help drive equitable private investment in “opportunity zones”.
The foundation named Washington DC, Oakland, Dallas and St Louis as the latest participants in its Opportunity Zone Community Capacity Building Initiative introduced in May 2019.
The initiative aims to help cities build a pipeline of projects and small business investments that move beyond the early stages of planning and attract private investment in economically distressed areas.
Ultimately, this will benefit vulnerable communities through opportunity zones created in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“Opportunity zones have the potential to transform communities and deliver real economic benefits to millions of families living in distressed neighbourhoods across the country,” said Dr Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
“But that will only happen if organisations like ours make the right investments, bring together the right partners, and put community members – the people we seek to serve – at the centre of the work. Our initiative will champion residents’ interests by providing cities with the resources to shape investments so they create good-paying jobs, promote more affordable housing, and provide greater economic opportunity.”
The four cities represent 97 opportunity zones with more than 362,400 residents. Each will receive $920,000 in grants and supportive services, including a $400,000 grant to establish and fund a chief opportunity zone officer embedded in each city’s economic development authority.
They join Newark and Atlanta, announced as the first cities in the initiative, totalling commitments to more than $5.5m supporting inclusive growth for more than 491,762 people.
“Our initiative will champion residents’ interests by providing cities with the resources to shape investments so they create good-paying jobs, promote more affordable housing, and provide greater economic opportunity”
Funding will also support two AmeriCorps Vista (volunteers in service to America) members who will facilitate community involvement in reviewing proposals for opportunity zone projects and businesses, and technical assistance to help develop project pipelines that connect the interests of investors with those of existing community members.
“Our efforts to grow the local economy through business and real estate investment need to create benefits for current residents and businesses within opportunity zones who have been impacted by historically racialised disparities,” added Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland.
“The Rockefeller Foundation’s support will enable us to advance policies to harness value-aligned, long-term investments that improve equitable outcomes through wealth building, job creation and enhanced access to opportunities in our most challenged communities.”
The Rockefeller Foundation also announced a $400,000 grant to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (Lisc) to help implement the initiative in all six cities.
Lisc is a national non-profit that has invested more than $20bn to catalyse opportunity in communities through affordable housing, better schools, safer streets, growing businesses, good jobs and programmes that connect people with financial opportunity, impacting millions of Americans in both urban and rural areas.
The non-profit will work with BCT Partners, a consulting services firm that works with organisations to improve organisational effectiveness and support strategies for change with a focus on equity, to provide technical assistance to the participating cities.
The organisations will help opportunity zone communities design plans and attract investment that move potential projects forward.
“Lisc’s 40-year legacy of serving as an investor and catalyst for the positive transformation of communities will only strengthen with this partnership,” said Maurice Jones, president and CEO, Lisc.
“Our teams across the US are actively pursuing opportunity zone revitalisation efforts, and this partnership with Rockefeller will do more to bring about the responsible growth we want to see in these communities.”
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