A new survey designed to assess the status of Opportunity Zones in Indiana shows a high interest in the economic development incentive. However, the survey, conducted by Thomas P. Miller & Associates with support from the Indiana Economic Development Association, also reveals confusion about how to make the most of Opportunity Zones.
More assistance would enable communities small and large to take greater advantage of what has been called one of the greatest incentives in a generation, the survey suggests.
Opportunity Zones were part of the sweeping Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Lawmakers designed the tool to entice capital into distressed areas, whether urban, suburban or rural. The legislation encourages investors, who hold an estimated $6 trillion in unrealized capital gains, to minimize their obligations by putting their money to work in the zones.
More than 8,700 zones, including 156 in Indiana, have been created. The vast majority are in low-income census tracts.
The survey was completed in December last year and gathered the thoughts of economic development leaders representing 92% of Indiana zones.
An overarching theme was a strong interest in Opportunity Zones. Nearly all of the respondents had attended a workshop or forum, and a significant majority—97% in urban zones and 70% in small towns and rural areas—had made zones a top or high priority in their economic development strategies. Urban zones were defined as existing in counties with populations of at least 50,000.
The survey also found large gaps between urban and smaller communities in their understanding of Opportunity Zones and their level of preparedness. Nearly 85% of urban zones, but only 20% of zones in smaller communities, had identified prospective projects. Similarly, 68% of urban zones had prepared a prospectus versus 17% in more rural communities.
Thomas P. Miller & Associates is helping communities across the nation create investment strategies for Opportunity Zones, mainly through expanding business opportunities and activating underperforming real estate. Tying investment to the needs and potential of low-income households and disadvantaged businesses is critical to their benefit from the incentive.
As with most investment, reaching a positive outcome is arduous and requires diverse skills and experience. TPMA helps communities organize their leadership and talent to succeed with Opportunity Zones.
To learn more about the survey or TPMA’s approach to Opportunity Zones, contact Jack Woods at 317-441-2100.