The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced five communities that will receive grants through the Opportunity Zone Challenge Program. Cumberland County, Hackensack, Flemington Borough, Paterson, and Jersey City have each won $100,000 through the program. The plans will support efforts to attract community-supported Opportunity Zone investments, build investment readiness, and help the community to meet its goals for Opportunity Fund investment.
“Working hand-in-hand with community partners is critical to ensuring Opportunity Zone investments have the greatest possible positive impact. The Opportunity Zone Challenge facilitates the close partnerships between the NJEDA and municipal, county, and local leaders that are critical to realizing each community’s vision for equitable, inclusive revitalization,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “The five plans that will receive funding through this round of the challenge represent the kind of proactive thinking we need to not only address the challenges we face today but also to lay the groundwork for long-term, sustainable economic growth.”
Championed by Senator Cory Booker, the Opportunity Zone program is a federal tax incentive designed to spur investment in the most disinvested rural and urban communities. The program includes over 8,700 Opportunity Zones in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, and the US territories. Through the program, private investors with capital gains can make investments in Opportunity Zone business equity or real estate projects through Qualified Opportunity Zone Funds, which are purposely designed to be long-term capital investments. The program grants tax breaks based on length of the investment. New Jersey employed a detailed, community-focused selection process to designate 169 zones in 75 communities, with at least one in each county.
While the Opportunity Zone program is designed to focus capital flows and economic investment into communities that have historically faced economic challenges, long-term investment scarcity and strained local governments have made it difficult for many of the communities most in need to develop and capitalize critical projects. The NJEDA developed the Opportunity Zone Challenge Program to help address this problem by encouraging communities to come up with specific plans for pursuing Opportunity Zone-based investments.
“Helping communities establish a strong foundation for attracting Opportunity Zone investment is critical to ensuring resources flow to projects that will have the greatest impact,” said Leslie A. Anderson, CEO and President of the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority. “The Opportunity Zone Challenge is an important piece of this puzzle that allows communities to develop the institutional capacity they need to make most of the Opportunity Zone program.”
The first round of applications for the Opportunity Zone Challenge opened on August 1, 2019 and concluded on September 16, 2019. Of the 22 applications submitted, the NJEDA selected five communities to receive grants. The five projects receiving funding are:
In addition to the Opportunity Zone Challenge, the NJEDA has recently rolled out a variety of initiatives aimed at attracting investments in inclusive, equitable development that promote business growth and job creation, especially in communities that have been passed over by developers in the past. These resources include the recently-launched Opportunity Zone Marketplace – an online portal designed to connect investors nationwide with business investment, real estate, and community improvement projects in Opportunity Zones – and New Jersey’s Opportunity Zone “One-Stop Shop” website, which includes a Community Asset map with data on all the 75 Opportunity Zones and guides for preparing a project pipeline and connecting shovel-ready projects with Opportunity Zone fund investors.
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