THE CHALLENGE

Entrenched and accelerating economic disparity is a defining challenge of our time. It is fueling a polarization in America that strains civil society and our political processes. Automation, technological advancement, and globalization have only accelerated this problem. They are leaving behind huge swaths of the country ––from the smallest rural towns to neighborhoods in the largest cities–– with residents who are systematically excluded from participating in our economy:

  • Less than 3% of US counties (73 out of 3000) produced more than half of the job growth since 2008.*
  • Two-thirds of distressed areas saw a decrease in jobs from 2000 to 2015.*
  • Only one in five distressed zip codes added business establishments between 2011 and 2015.*

The coronavirus crisis, and its highly unequal impact, have only made this problem more acute. Inclusive development that focuses on including places and people that have been too-long locked out of the economy is more necessary now than ever, as our country recovers.

*Economic Innovation Group (2017 Distressed Community Index).

OUR RESPONSE

The Governance Project launched in 2018 to combat the entrenched disparity of opportunity across America. We are focused on transforming economic development so that local leaders can build lasting partnerships that lift all boats. We have worked on leveling the playing field to ensure that the public sector and community leaders have the right tools and guidance to direct private capital to do public good through the Opportunity Zones incentive. We have worked to provide assistance to these same local leaders as they responded to the small business crisis precipitated by COVID-19. We are currently building GroundUp, a tool that democratizes participation in local development by lowering the technical barriers that have previously excluded communities from equitably influencing development.

WHY OPPORTUNITY ZONES?

A little known, but widely debated, part of the 2017 tax bill created unprecedented incentives to revitalize America’s most distressed communities. As a result of this legislation, all fifty Governors designated over 8,700 Opportunity Zones throughout the country – from rust belt cities to rural areas to parts of large urban centers – and investors can get significant tax benefits by investing capital gains in the zones. You can read more about the details of the program in the Opportunity Zone tab of our website.

With visionary leadership, Opportunity Zones can be a big step forward for the inclusion of all Americans in our civic and economic life. They can put new energy behind longstanding efforts to transform communities and local industries. But as examples have shown,  Opportunity Zones can only achieve their potential if local leaders rise to the occasion. Doing so requires the right tools and know-how. We help local leaders take early steps to focus on good development in opportunity zones and engaging the community in an informed way to make sure the incentive works the best that it can for the residents of the distressed neighborhoods it was intended to help.


The Governance Project helps state and local leaders build and execute thoughtful strategies to leverage Opportunity Zones for transformational and inclusive development. 


HOW COMMUNITIES CAN BETTER USE OPPORTUNITY ZONES

A paper authored by  Bruce Katz and Colin Higgins analyzes the geography of the most job-dense Opportunity Zones  and what public, private, and civic leaders can do to spur inclusive growth in them.

 

Our toolkit for leaders from the community to City Hall establishes a process for guiding investments towards projects that have high social impact.

A paper authored by our advisors, Bruce Katz, Jeremy Nowak and Jamie Rubin, emphasizes what states can do to help catalyze the Opportunity Zones.