The Opportunity Zones incentive is flawed. Most recently, news reports alleged favoritism for those with White House connections. Beyond that, the federal government has been slow on implementation and has failed on accountability. Yes, Opportunity Zones are imperfect. But they are here. We can choose to sit on the sidelines and criticize. Or, we can try to make up for the federal government’s failings and make them work for those most in need. We have chosen the latter course. Read here for more of my thoughts and our work across America.
Accelerator for America, in coordination with Accelerator partner Bruce Katz, Director of Drexel University’s Nowak Metro Finance Lab, and Ross Baird, Founder of Blueprint Local, released the groundbreaking new policy paper “Towards a New System of Community Wealth” at the City Lab Conference in Washington, DC this week (read a summary of the paper, here.)
The paper explores how the long-standing system of top-down Community Development has failed us, and discusses a new system, which we have labeled “Community Wealth,” that has begun to emerge. This new system represents a radical shift in how private capital invests in distressed neighborhoods, and the paper details the systemic changes in policy, practice and institutions required to build Community Wealth across the country. We are so excited to share this long-anticipated paper, and we will continue to build Community Wealth through our work.
The Global Inclusive Growth Summit on Oct. 21, co-hosted by our partners at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and the Aspen Institute, was about sharing ideas for creating equitable and sustainable economic growth through scalable solutions. I moderated the panel "Rewiring Opportunities for Investment," which explored strategies to expose opportunity in local markets and accelerate inclusive growth. The panel included Accelerator Advisory Council member Mayor David Holt of Oklahoma City; our friend John Lettieri, President and CEO of the Economic Innovation Group (EIG); and our new friend Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, Director of Neighborhood Development for the New Orleans Business Council.
The summit was a great success and also served as the launching pad for Mastercard's revolutionary new Inclusive Growth Toolkit, which combines publicly available data with Mastercard's anonymized and aggregated transaction data to help secure investments in underserved communities. We are so proud to have helped develop the tool, and we look forward to incorporating it into our work moving forward. You can read my reflections on the summit, here.
The Accelerator and Mayor Nan Whaley on Oct. 30 hosted Gem City Rising: Economic Resiliency and Renewal in Dayton, Ohio. It was a fantastic event that brought together local, regional, and national community and economic development practitioners, policymakers, investors, and developers to gain a deeper understanding of the city's incredible momentum and how the federal Opportunity Zones tax incentive could accelerate investments that build Community Wealth throughout the city.
I had the honor of leading a discussion on "Resiliency in America's Heartland" alongside Mayor Whaley (who also serves on our Advisory Council) and James Fallows of the Atlantic.
Our Director of Economic Development, Aaron Thomas, was in Charlottesville last week for the launch of Opportunity Virginia, whose mission is to facilitate productive connections between investors and communities to drive meaningful activity in Virginia’s Opportunity Zones.
The launch was attended by roughly 300 local elected officials, business and economic developers, investors, and leaders in philanthropy and academics. Aaron led the discussion, "Marketing a Community: Best Practices in Prospectus-Building" which explored Opportunity Zone investment approaches with representatives from various Virginia towns and cities, including how they thought about marketing their communities to investors through the creation of a prospectus (46 cities across America have completed a prospectus through our toolkit so far). We're excited to see the meaningful activity that Opportunity Virginia spurs in the state's Opportunity Zones.
We had a great time participating in the first convening of the Economic Equity Network, an initiative centered around inclusive and equitable Opportunity Zone development, in Oakland on Oct. 17. We connected with Assemblyman Rob Bonta on the work we're doing with our partners to build community wealth across the country.
Our Transit and Infrastructure Campaigns Director, Helen Hwang, has been working with coalitions in both Cincinnati and Houston as they approach their election day, November 5. The city of Houston has a $3.5 billion bond measure on the ballot that will invest in transit infrastructure to benefit the entire city. In Cincinnati, November 5th is critical to advancing a ballot measure that aims to invest $130 million annually to ease people's commutes and boost the regional economy.
Echoing Green Summit for Social Innovation
November 18 - 21, Los Angeles, CA
Accelerator for America Advisory Council Meeting
December 5 - 6, Waterloo, IA
Accelerator for America Holiday Party
December 15, Los Angeles, CA