Rural communities across the U.S. have faced decades of underinvestment and are too often overlooked when it comes to large-scale capital projects that can change community trajectories.
The Opportunity Zone incentive created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act sparked a national conversation about the need for intentional strategies to drive private investment for rural community development. While early analysis suggests that rural communities have so far been left out of the benefits of OZs, a compelling group of rural innovators has managed to launch projects through OZ capital and other investment types, driving rural economic and community development from a wellness campus in Indiana to affordable housing in Alabama.
This playbook, targeted to rural economic developers and community champions, profiles some of these leaders and lays out best practices for developing a strategy to attract private capital for community benefit projects, through OZs and beyond. Based on more than a dozen expert interviews and three years of on-the-ground work with local rural communities in Utah, this resource offers concrete steps communities can take.
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 Rural Opportunity Zone and Recovery 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 successful development of rural areas by leveraging private capital, from a space company in Colorado to a mining town in Utah.