Opportunity Zones: The Bigger Picture
By: John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.
It is time that we begin to think differently about Qualified Opportunity Zones. Recently signed into law, they were created as a way to drive long-term investment in low-income communities, including neighborhoods in Atlanta.
The way it works is two-fold. An investor gets a tax benefit for setting up a Qualified Opportunity Fund and investing in property in a Qualified Opportunity Zone. In return, these investments are meant to help build up the community. The idea sounds pretty cut and dry, but there are those who oppose it.
Last week, I appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” to join the growing discussion on this topic. Critics believe that a lack of oversight can hurt this policy. However, I think the concept of Opportunity Zones is a good thing. I believe it can truly be successful by creating a strong foundation for teaching financial literacy. Then, you can provide financial coaching in communities, just like the work we’re doing at Operation HOPE through our nationwide HOPE Inside empowerment network.
Urban inner-city neighborhoods near job centers are quickly becoming gold mines. Investing in Opportunity Zones gives us the chance to provide real economic uplift. At Operation HOPE, we’re committed to doing our part to help bring impact to individuals who live in these areas.
An example of this is a $1.2 million grant recently awarded to Operation HOPE by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Department’s Economic Development Association. It will help support our work at a designated opportunity zone in Puerto Rico. With this funding, we will provide 300 new workshops to help empower entrepreneurs and small businesses following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Opportunity Zones will soon begin to attract real capital into neighborhoods that we care deeply about. It will also prove that you can do well and do good at the same time. My hope is that we all become educated about how we can invest and bring the uplift that is desperately needed in many places across the country, and here in Atlanta.