Rural Opportunity Zone and Recovery Playbook
A resource for economic developers and community champions

*Note: This playbook is a beta version: the team is currently testing the concepts with five communities in Utah and accepting feedback and insights from national innovators and collaborators. Please contact Project Director Megan Brewster at to share your insights and feedback.*

Opportunity Zones are a powerful yet untested tool for driving private investment into overlooked communities. Early analysis suggests that rural communities have so far been left out of the benefits of OZs. The exception to this is a small group of rural communities across the country who have invested in developing an OZ strategy and successfully broken ground on projects that general community value, from a wellness campus in Indiana to affordable housing in Alabama.

This playbook, targeted to rural economic developers and community champions, lays out best practices for developing an OZ strategy and a team to execute that strategy. Based on more than a dozen expert interviews and two years of direct work with the Opportunity Utah team, the playbook identifies concrete steps communities can take to attract private investment through the OZ incentive and beyond.

These steps include: 1) plan for social impact, 2) build your team, 3) understand investors, 4) leverage incentives, 5) create a community vision and project menu, and 6) connect with investors.

In particular, the playbook uniquely profiles the type of investors who are active in the OZ space and the way deals are often structured to overcome the lack of shared language and frameworks between communities and investors.

Additional insights focus on the importance of a regional approach, the power of attracting local investors, and case studies that demonstrate how successful businesses and communities have approached the OZ incentive, from a space company in Colorado to a mining town in Utah.​

The Partner

Utah Association of Counties, Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, and the U.S. Economic Development Agency

The Challenge

Leveraging the Opportunity Zone policy program to drive investment into overlooked communities requires a strategy and a champion. Rural communities have so far seen little investment and often lack capacity to operationalize alone.

The Outcome

A first-of-its-kind playbook targeted to rural economic developers and community champions that provides a step-by-step process to generate community value through the OZ incentive.

The Impact

A central resource to equip decision makers with the fast-track knowledge they need to drive community investment that meets local needs and improves quality of life and economic outcomes.