82 OPPORTUNITY ZONE MAGAZINE | ISSUE 2 • VOLUME 2
PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP TO SPUR OPPORTUNITY
By Neli Vazquez Rowland
The importance of creating partnerships to better help people in distressed areas .
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has largely been measured in infection rates and the number of lives lost as a direct result of contracting Covid-19 . The daily tracking and reporting of these numbers have been a grim reminder of how fragile life can be .
The pandemic also exposed how fragile the economic and health disparities are in some of our communities that have disproportionately been impacted by the rate of infection and death . These communities represent some of our most impoverished areas where unemployment and lack of access to needed services is rampant . In 2017 , in an effort to stem the decline in these areas , the federal government designated many of them Opportunity Zones ( QOZ ) to encourage investments in economic development projects by providing tax breaks and waiving capital gains obligations in exchange for locking up their capital and making up to 10-year commitments .
Generally , many of the worse QOZs are located in disenfranchised urban settings that are riddled with vacant land , abandoned buildings and empty storefronts . Poverty , crime , and violence often plague these areas due to their lack of economic opportunity and viability . There persists a cycle of decades of decay due to the lack of investment in the communities , and investment is not readily pursued because of the decay . The designation of a QOZ was meant to provide financial benefits available to any investor in an effort to attract and bring economic opportunities to these areas ; and , to strategically stop the downward spiral and reverse its course to stabilize them on many levels .
Investing in a QOZ can be a high-risk proposition , even for the most speculative type of investor . To be successful , it requires government leadership and support from the community . Unfortunately , many investors are often faced with a community opposition that is wary of their intentions , overburdened with unrealistic expectations , and experience a void in local government leadership that can help bridge the gap between the community and an outside investor . If these types of conditions are present , then conventional wisdom would be to avoid investing in QOZs completely , even with the incentives .
This leads to the question : Can Opportunity Zones help or hurt in our efforts to rebuild from the ground up some of our most disenfranchised communities across America ?
THE ROLE OF OPPORTUNITY ZONES IN DISTRESSED AREAS
Qualified Opportunity Zones were legislated to provide tax breaks designed to spur economic redevelopment in impoverished communities . These investment vehicles were to
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