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Nathan Buehler
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Email; 503-689-3559

February 8, 2019 Media Contact
Nathan Buehler 503-689-3559

State of Oregon's Opportunity Zone process recognized for Social Equity and Smart Growth Potential

Smart Growth America recently released a report identifying which federal Opportunity Zones are positioned to bring positive social, environmental, and economic returns, and Oregon was ranked in the top spot, among all states.

In 2018, the U.S. Treasury implemented this new tax incentive that creates 8,700 Opportunity Zones across the U.S. and allows for the creation of Opportunity Funds to invest in those zones. The program provides tax savings to both the capital gains initially invested through a qualified Opportunity Fund, as well as capital gains earned for the investor from businesses or projects in an Opportunity Zone.

Each state was tasked with creating a process to evaluate and nominate a set percentage of its eligible Census tracts. For Oregon, that ended up being 86 tracts throughout the state. In February of 2018, Business Oregon and the Governor's Office began soliciting feedback on potential Opportunity Zone nominations.

"We know that opportunity zones are going to affect communities, but it is still unclear exactly what the effect will be," said Sayer Jones, director of mission related investing for Meyer Memorial Trust. "Given the timelines for the program, Oregon did a good job at bringing different perspectives to the table to select zones that will drive capital investment, which will create jobs and tax revenues, without putting undue pressure on vulnerable communities."

A robust outreach process included multiple meetings and calls with Oregon's nine federally recognized tribes, members of Oregon's Senate and House of Representatives, Association of Oregon Counties, League of Oregon Cities, community foundations, housing organizations, economic development organizations, and more. The state issued notices for community input, which resulted in approximately 400 comments from throughout Oregon.

The result was a diverse set of zones that constitute a balance of areas with ability to attract investment, and areas with more need, while listening to local communities.

"Oregon Community Foundation prioritizes community-driven development that delivers social, environmental and economic returns," says Melissa Freeman, director of strategic projects for Oregon Community Foundation. "We will continue to collaborate with the state of Oregon to determine how opportunity zones can advance community development that considers social equity impacts."

More information is available on the Oregon Opportunity Zones web page and federal information available from CDFI Fund.

Business Oregon, the state's economic development agency, invests in Oregon businesses, communities, and people to promote a globally competitive, diverse, and inclusive economy. The agency's services span rural community development and infrastructure financing; business retention, expansion and recruitment; export promotion and international trade; investments in industry research and development and entrepreneurship; small business assistance; and support for arts and cultural organizations.