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Opportunity Zone Association of America Holds Community Workshop and Catalyst Event in Pittsburgh

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The Opportunity Zone Association of America (OZAA) held a community workshop on Thursday, October 31st, followed by a full-day catalyst event on Friday, November 1st. Both events aimed to discover the impacts of Opportunity Zones (OZs) in other communities nationally, hear from national experts and policy makers, and help inform Pittsburghers about ways to leverage OZs overall.

The Pittsburgh Catalyst Event and Community Workshop are part of OZAA’s Road Show that will continue across the United States in 2020. The goal of the Road Show is to share the ways in which Opportunity Zones are improving communities across the country and provide attendees with valuable insights regarding how to access national resources and apply success stories to their locale. It aims to gather, educate, and galvanize developers, investors, government representatives, and community advocates interested in using the federal  OZ incentive to make meaningful investments in disinvested communities.

With planning that began in May, OZAA gathered many of Pittsburgh’s OZ stakeholders to discuss the region’s OZ assets, community strengths, and challenges, informing the programming of the two-day event. The workshop and event focused on practical application, best practices, and lessons learned from early OZ leaders.

As an intermediary nonprofit in Pittsburgh, Neighborhood Allies wants to ensure that our communities and community leaders are equitably positioned to access capital and saw the OZAA Roadshow as an opportunity to bring knowledge about OZ development opportunities and challenges to the region.  Thus, we engaged with other local collaborators, such as Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Pittsburgh Branch and Trailblaze Creative, to aid OZAA in creating their first ever catalyst event here in Pittsburgh.

The Community Workshop

  • Aaron Grau, Executive Director of OZAA, welcomes attendees to the community workshop.

The community workshop aimed to increase knowledge and awareness about opportunity zones throughout Pittsburgh as well as give community leaders a chance to work through ideas to address complexities surrounding OZs. Throughout the morning, speakers discussed OZ stakeholders, potential community benefits and concerns, examples of OZs at play in other cities, and more. Breakout discussions included creating community priority lists and determining the tools needed to help communities succeed. To see designated opportunity zones in the Pittsburgh region, check out OZAA’s Opportunity Zone map.

The Catalyst Event

The all-day conference invited participants to engage with Pittsburgh institutions, national opportunity funds, and others involved with OZs nationally in order to gain knowledge and insight into what opportunity zones could look like for Pittsburgh. Panel topics included: Public-Private Partnerships Pittsburgh Priorities & Anchor Institutions; OZAA Technicians & Solving Pittsburgh Problems; Qualified Opportunity Funds & Pittsburgh Strategies; Community Best Practices & Success. The day also included a morning keynote from Dr. John Fleming, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for the Economic Development Agency, US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration; an afternoon keynote from Karen Dunn Kelley, Deputy Secretary, US Department of Commerce; and closing remarks from Mick Cornett, former President of the National Conference of Mayors.

Created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, the Opportunity Zone (OZ) Program incentivizes investors to invest into qualified low-income communities. Following the creation of the program, Governors of U.S. States and Territories (and the mayor of the District of Columbia), were responsible for nominating census tracts that meet certain predefined qualifications. While complex, OZs can bring potentially great economic opportunities to our communities. We simply have to be sure that community voice is heard in development processes and that investments live up to their promises to our neighborhoods. Overall, the workshop and catalyst event provided a chance for communities to learn about OZs and how they can work for Pittsburgh.

About OZAA

Opportunity Zone Association of America (OZAA) is the national platform for Opportunity Zone stakeholders including funds, businesses, investors, service providers, policy makers, municipalities and non-profits/foundations. OZAA supports these stakeholders, and the professionals they rely on, by providing multiple venues for information exchange, networking, sharing of best practices, and policy discussions.

The association promotes the Opportunity Zone industry by bringing local opportunities, and their stakeholders, together with national resources; informing and updating policy makers with supporting data on projects in Opportunity Zone census tracts.

OZAA, through focus groups, roundtables, and regular convenings seeks to understand project data–what project sponsors are willing and able to share, what communities and policy makers want to see, and how best to distribute that information. From information collection to visualization and reporting, OZAA will work with stakeholders to tell the story of Opportunity Zone success.

Neighborhood Allies was honored to be part of the planning team and looks forward to working with the region to ensure that opportunity zones are equitable for designated communities within our neighborhoods.

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