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Atlanta Drives the Conversation Around Equitable Federal Opportunity Zone Investment

Invest Atlanta has been a first mover and thought leader when it comes to driving the conversation about an effective Federal Opportunity Zone development strategy. The City of Atlanta is at the forefront of examining how to maximize the program's potential for equity, neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing, business development, and living wage job creation in our communities.

Federal Opportunity Zones are the first federal economic and community development tool to launch since the New Markets Tax Credits program 15 years ago. This new program provides an opportunity to drive private investment into neighborhoods in Atlanta’s 26 Opportunity Zones, located primarily in the south and southwest areas of the city. Many of Invest Atlanta’s incentives can be layered with Opportunity Zone investments to deliver additional economic benefits to the city and its residents.

Dr. Edward Smith has gotten off to a running start as our very first Opportunity Zones and Special Initiatives Manager. In this role, Dr. Smith is developing and leading the Invest Atlanta strategy for connecting qualified investors to place-based initiatives, development projects, and businesses seeking investment capital located within the City of Atlanta’s Federal Opportunity Zones.

Recently, Invest Atlanta has partnered with other local organizations to host two informative events. On May 23, 2019 at Southface, Invest Atlanta and the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative brought in financial and development experts for a Federal Opportunity Zone Forum for Entrepreneurs. Speakers included Alicia Reeves of AWBI; Dr. Shireda P. Howard, Managing Director, Diversified Financial Management Group, Inc.; Will Lambe, Director of Capital Solutions, Enterprise Community Investments, Inc.; and Dale Royal, Executive Director, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). A packed house heard a spirited discussion on the benefits of Opportunity Zones for residents and businesses, and best practices for mobilizing capital to invest in small businesses located in underserved markets.

On June 4, 2019, Invest Atlanta hosted a Federal Opportunity Zone Empowerment Forum at the MET Atlanta in Southwest Atlanta. Two panels of experts covered different aspects of the new tools. The audience heard from organizations including Invest Atlanta, HUD, Impact Fund, Community Reinvestment Fund, Urban League, UGA Small Business Development Center, and the Georgia Tech Minority Business Development Center.

The City of Atlanta also recently published an Opportunity Zone Prospectus to educate potential investors about Atlanta’s economy, economic development tools, and the demographics and opportunities within each Opportunity Zone. Within Atlanta’s Opportunity Zones, the City and its economic development partners, including Central Atlanta Progress, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and Invest Atlanta, have identified a diverse set of investment opportunities within commercial real estate and operating businesses.

Looking ahead, Invest Atlanta will continue to push a proactive strategy of connecting qualified investors to place-based initiatives, development projects, and businesses seeking investment capital located within the City of Atlanta’s Federal Opportunity Zones.

The primary focus will be to facilitate and streamline the connection process between investors and projects within Atlanta’s Opportunity Zones and ensure that Atlanta is well positioned for investments in catalytic projects that can make a significant social and economic impact for the city.

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