The opportunity of Opportunity Zones

Elaine Bedel

As I travel across the state, I continue to hear stories from Hoosier innovators who are solving 21st-century challenges, small businesses who are hiring their first employees and global companies who are growing and finding success here. And, thanks to job creators and hardworking Hoosiers, Indiana is on a roll. Along with increasing our competitive advantages to attract business, we’re strategically investing in high-growth sectors, fostering a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem and encouraging regional development planning.

But as a state, we’re not one to rest on our laurels. That’s why we continue seeking new ways to foster economic growth and attract and retain talent. Along with quality of place initiatives already underway, the new federal Opportunity Zones program offers communities another tool to support investment and revitalization efforts. Established by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones are specially-selected census tracts that are designed to spur private investment in under-served communities that are still recovering from the Great Recession.

In 2018, Gov. Eric Holcomb nominated 156 census tracts, which span more than 1,000 square miles and 500,000 Hoosier residences across 58 counties, in partnership with a group of geographically diverse stakeholders from around the state. After receiving approval by the U.S. Department of Treasury and determining the latest regulations, Indiana communities are getting to work, pooling together resources and thinking strategically about how to market their respective zones to investors. And the state is here to help.

Together with our local and regional economic development partners, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) is working to ensure that our communities are equipped and ready to promote their respective Opportunity Zones. In north central Indiana, that means leveraging unique economic and cultural assets like the former Studebaker plant that is getting a second life as a mixed-use hub for innovation right in the heart of South Bend’s Renaissance District, the South Shore Line that will soon cut commuter times to Chicago nearly in half, and an international airport that offers two new routes to Dallas/Fort Worth and Charlotte and other nonstop daily flights to destinations and connections worldwide. As we work to compete with 8,700 Opportunity Zones across the country, the strategic planning already underway – including the investment prospectus created by the city of South Bend – serves as a model for other communities to follow and will better position the state and north central Indiana to promote the benefits of doing business here and to more readily attract opportunities that will transform communities for today’s Hoosiers and for generations to come.

Moreover, we should be considering speed-to-market strategies for Opportunity Zone investment. By streamlining permitting and removing burdensome fees or costs, Indiana communities can not only attract potential investors, but also actively recruit them from around the nation. In coordination with these efforts, the IEDC is seeking direct input from investors to understand the type and scope of projects they would like to invest in, while also connecting them with the Opportunity Investment Consortium of Indiana – a newly-formed, private sector-led organization championing efforts to educate and promote Indiana’s Opportunity Zones. In fact, the consortium unveiled an online portal to assist in matching projects to potential investors, ultimately helping transform Opportunity Zone neighborhoods into vibrant places for residents and businesses. There are so many reasons to take advantage of Opportunity Zones, and you can learn more about the program here.

So whether you’re interested in investing in a real estate or redevelopment project or looking to partner with a Hoosier business, don’t miss out on the benefits of being here in Indiana. Along with the federal tax incentives offered through the Opportunity Zones program, you would be choosing to invest in one of the best business environments in the nation. And we’re not slowing down – we’re ranked top five in the nation for best places to do business, and we’re making record investments in our communities and growing workforce. Throughout our state, dreams are coming true in the form of entrepreneurial and economic opportunities every day. The opportunities are truly endless here in the Hoosier state.

Elaine Bedel is president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

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