A few localities have already begun to form consortiums to organize and facilitate mission-driven Opportunity Zone activity in their local markets. One is Indiana, where leaders from state and local government, philanthropies, prominent NGOs and community development organizations—including the Indianapolis office of LISC—have joined to create the Opportunity Investment Consortium Indiana. The objective of this consortium, according to its organizers, is “to encourage the transformation of Opportunity Zone neighborhoods into vibrant places that are profoundly attractive and sustainable for both residents and businesses.”
The Indiana Consortium has three principal goals:
The Consortium has already taken a number of steps to achieve these outcomes—steps which are replicable in other localities where community stakeholders are navigating the Opportunity Zones. The group:
While the Consortium is a relatively new entity, it has already provided a robust framework that other communities can draw on and adapt for their local markets. A number of states and cities, such as Minnesota, Detroit, and Cleveland have taken cues from the Indiana statewide portal and built the lessons learned into their collaboratives and online platforms.
A statewide group of partners, in fact, recently launched the Minnesota Opportunity Collaborative, a joint effort to market Minnesota’s opportunity zones to investors and educate stakeholders about the federal incentive. The Collaborative's web home is a resource for opportunity zone information, including a directory of projects and sites. It also aims to build awareness and facilitates events to train stakeholders, market investment opportunities, and bring projects to reality. The Collaborative was developed after a pilot project sponsored by Duluth LISC showed the need to bring more groups to the table and take the initiative statewide.
Another approach to advance the process is to “model” the financial feasibility for particular asset class priorities that emerge early in the planning process. By projecting preliminary development budgets and operating pro-formas, community stakeholders can begin to identify the likelihood of and obstacles to implementing particular investments.
By doing a preliminary analysis of development costs and sources of capital (including OZ proceeds) and reconciling these sources and uses with operating projections, stakeholders can sharpen what strategies and resources they will need to create critical neighborhood assets such as affordable housing, day care centers, health centers, commercial and other community facilities.
For some groups of community partners, depending on capacity and resources at their disposal, this modeling strategy may be more accessible and cost effective than developing a portal along the lines of the Indiana example.