OPPORTUNITY ZONE CONFERENCE IN DELAWARE

December 06, 2018 – Newark, DE. Yesterday a group of 250 leaders from government, finance, and local business gathered in an at-capacity auditorium on the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus to discuss the prospects for opportunity zones across the state and country. The conference was co-hosted by the Biden Institute and Governor John Carney’s Office, with help from The Governance Project (TGP). The first half of the day focused on the Opportunity Zone incentive’s fundamental elements, with expert commentary from accountants, policymakers, and business-people. The day’s second half delved into how investors, developers, and policy-makers should think about three different types of zones: urban, rural, and university-anchored. The statewide conference in Delaware precedes a similar gathering in Massachussets on December 12th.

TGP's Sarah Bianchi Presents on strategies for cities and investors in Delaware.

FOCUS ON UNIVERSITY ANCHORS

The conference took place on STAR Campus, which is a repurposed site in an Opportunity Zone. The campus is on the site of a Chrysler plant that was shuttered in 2009. In the past 9 years it’s become a  fully functional campus and innovation space with plans for expansion. It is what economists call an anchor institution: a large and stable employer and cultural center in a local economy that lowers the risk of an initial regional investment. As TGP Senior Advisor Bruce Katz outlines in a recent paper, anchor institutions like universities and hospitals are one of the keys to achieving transformational and community-oriented development in Opportunity Zones. They are often local assets most poised to address broad community needs while also serving as resolute pillars of economic vitality. Much of the morning discussion focused on how different stakeholders worked with Anchor Institutions in Delaware. You can find the presentation that Sarah Bianchi made on behalf of TGP here.

GOVERNOR CARNEY KEYNOTES

Governor John Carney participated in an engaging lunchtime discussion about how the state’s zone designation fits into his vision. The state strategically selected 25 zones in ares that met government priorities and spanned from the Port of Wilmington to a large rural lot in Smyrna. Governor Carney sees the zones as a key opportunity to provide an added boost to the state’s economic vision and the state has been a leader in bringing projects in its opportunity zones to market. You can read more about the state’s zones and projects on their exemplary website.

Governor John Carney discusses the prospects of Opportunity Zones with a conference participant. 

BREAKOUTS AROUND ZONE FEATURES

Following an in-depth lunchtime discussion, the conference broke out into three working groups focused around different zone features. Each breakout picked up on themes covered earlier in the day and elaborated upon them with more depth and focus. For example, the university anchored Opportunity Zone group discussed the large role that universities will have in Opportunity Zones since almost 1,400 universities have property in zones which they can use in different ways to anchor regional development: by undertaking expansions, creating additional revenue streams, and supporting low-income students. Many left the conference with new ideas, contacts, and energy.

The Conference focused on Delaware but its insights were relevant to Opportunity Zones across the country. They will inform discussions between a similar set of stakeholders held this upcoming week in Lowell, Massachussets, in partnership with TGP.