Announcing “The Forbes OZ 20: Top Opportunity Zone Catalysts”

American wealth is increasingly concentrated in a small number of metro areas. Economic polarization is a problem decades in the making. Opportunity Zones represent one of the nation’s best chances to address these disparities by spurring growth in the communities that need it most. The Sorenson Impact Center and Forbes are excited to announce “The Forbes OZ 20: Top Opportunity Zone Catalysts” to highlight the best efforts of investors and community organizations alike.

 
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Opportunity Zones, defined by the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, provide tax incentives to re-invest unrealized capital gains into qualifying Opportunity Funds. An estimated $6.1 trillion in idle capital stands to be directed toward economic development projects in low-income communities across the country.

At the Sorenson Impact Center, we have assessed the increasing social cost of the status quo and want to ensure that this unprecedented opportunity does not go to waste. Driving capital allocation to low-income communities while preventing unintended consequences like displacement requires that stakeholders develop a measurement framework and common set of guiding principles before full-scale investment is under way. That’s why we created the The Forbes OZ 20. This competition is designed to showcase best practices for generating equitable growth and to stimulate collaborations between investors, communities, government leaders, nonprofits, think tanks, and foundations.

Central to the challenge is the development of an OZ Impact ScoreTM for each applicant, designed to yield meaningful comparative data and offer quantitative assessments of performance. The scoring process incorporates the Opportunity Zone Framework, which was created by The U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York using input from an array of policy makers, researchers, and investors.

Both Opportunity Funds and community entities such as local government organizations and economic development organizations are invited to apply when applications open on May 31st. 16 finalists will receive an OZ Impact Report and be featured on the Top Opportunity Zone Catalysts List. One urban and one rural winner will be selected from among the community entity applicants based on criteria of citizen engagement, strategy development, and investor engagement. One small and one large Opportunity Fund winner will be chosen based on community engagement, transparency, equity, and measurement and outcomes. All four winners will be featured in Forbes media channels and announced on the national stage of the Winter Innovation Summit in February 2020.

Applications for “The Forbes OZ 20: Top Opportunity Zone Catalysts” close on September 1, 2019, and finalists will be announced in October.

This piece was co-written by Sorenson Impact Center Student Fellow Kathryn Tokle.