Winners Of The Forbes OZ 20: Impact Investors Sparking Change In LA, Alabama, Colorado, Erie And Beyond.
Opportunity Zones are gaining momentum. From a standing start a year ago, the place-based tax policy has attracted $7.5 billion in capital to be invested in America’s long-overlooked communities.
Forbes has been keeping a close eye on the OZ policy, which Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) first championed and was later passed as part of the Republican tax overhaul under President Trump. Bipartisan and market-driven, the powerful tool, if used responsibly, could deliver both massive tax breaks to the rich while driving billions of dollars of transformative capital to the poorest neighborhoods and counties in the US. As place-based investing goes, there has never been a more significant program—nor a more controversal one.
In the summer of 2018, I wrote an in-depth feature on the unlikely group of billionaires and politicians that created the OZ policy. And in May 2019, we debuted the Forbes OZ Summit: Investing for Impact. Held in Newark, NJ, the event celebrated the top investors, government leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists using the new OZ policy to fuel transformative change in the US economy.
Most recently, Forbes partnered with the Sorenson Impact Center to create the Forbes OZ 20 list. It’s goal is to shine a light on people on the ground who are using OZ for community impact and inclusive capitalism. Brave and innovative, they are tackling tough problems to spark lasting progress. No quick buck artists here. In December, we published The Forbes OZ 20 to highlight the top OZ fund founders and community leaders from both urban and rural parts of the US.
And today at the Sorenson Center’s Winter Innovation Summit at the University Of Utah, we named the four Grand Prize Winners in each of the four categories. The finalists were judged on the Opportunity Zone Reporting Framework, which prioritizes community benefit and engagement, transparency, and impact. It’s an inspirational group. Take a look. And as the OZ program continues to attract investments and gain speed, this story is just getting started.
Winner for OZ fund with an Urban focus: SoLA Impact Opportunity Fund
SIZE: $165 million
HEADQUARTERS: Los Angeles, CA
The $165 million fund focuses on developing affordable housing across South Central Los Angeles, Watts, Compton, and other disadvantaged neighborhoods. Founded by Martin Muoto, a former venture capital partner at Accretive Partners and General Atlantic Partners, SoLa Impact targets the critical issues of homelessness, access to higher education, and living-wage jobs across LA’s OZ tracts.
Winner for OZ fund with a Rural focus: Four Points Funding
SIZE: $20 million
Armed with $20 million, Four Points is investing in rural communities across Colorado. The fund has invested in more than 300 distressed properties in the state and seeding capital to startups across western Colorado. Aside from forging a new path in startup and rural OZ investing across the Western Slope region, Four Points’ founders are focused on backing female and minority-owned businesses.
Winner for top Urban Community: The City of Erie, PA
The combined efforts of the Chamber’s Flagship Opportunity Zone Development Company and the public/private Erie Downtown Development Corporation have attracted interest and investment to the Pennsylvania city of just over 100,000 people. Two new Opportunity Zone Funds have been announced in the last six months, with plans to invest some $60 million across Erie’s OZs. Both organizations have partnered with Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth and KPMG to accurately track, measure, and quantify the economic and societal impact of OZ investments.
Winner for top Rural Community: Opportunity Alabama
Opportunity Alabama connects OZ communities, investors, entrepreneurs, plus larger institutions like banks, universities, and development organizations. Founded by Alex Flachsbart, the organization is building programs that educate communities on OZ policy and measure the social impact of projects across Alabama’s 158 OZ communities. Opportunity Alabama has also launched an OZ Fund to invest in projects statewide.