Kansas' Opportunity Zone Strategy
In short, a state’s competitive edge for on OZ implementation will come for those states which (1) have a clear public investment vision; (2) support their local communities to act and think differently about how they develop project portfolios; and (3) engage potential investors and steer co-investment into the state’s most compelling pipeline of investable and “de-risked” projects.
The Kansas Department of Commerce has led the Opportunity Zones initiative across the state including the recommendation process for nomination of designated Opportunity Zones. Commerce continues to work closely with communities to provide education and resources as local leaders engage with the program and incorporate this valuable tool into their economic development goals and plans.
Kansas Department of Commerce Opportunity Zones Initiatives include the following:
• Zones Designated: The Governor was tasked with designating up to 25 percent of census tracts that either have poverty rates of at least 20 percent or median family incomes of no more than 80 percent of statewide or metropolitan area family income as Opportunity Zones by April 30, 2018. Commerce reached out to communities to request Letters of Interest for designation as an opportunity zone. Commerce reviewed each submission and reviewed economic data on each census tract across Kansas. Each submission was evaluated for both the need present in the community as well as the opportunity present to attract investment to those areas. After reviewing the submissions and analysis, Commerce made recommendations to the Governors Economic Growth Subcabinet for final selections. Commerce worked with community leaders to communicate about the selection process and confirm the final nominations would best serve the interests of the local economy.
• Partner and Community Engagement: The Commerce team has already started engaging with communities, participating in and hosting OZ meetings around the state, working with a range of partners including the Kansas Economic Development Alliance, the Kansas Association of Community Foundations, and local economic development agencies and chambers of commerce across the state. Commerce hosted the first statewide Opportunity Zone Forum in October and continues to meet with local leadership to provide education about the program and discuss additional available resources and strategies.
• LinkedIn Group Page: Commerce has also established a LinkedIn group page where communities, investors, and economic development professionals can engage in discussion about local project and investment strategies. Access the group now.
• Inter-Agency Workgroup: Commerce is working to create an inter-agency workgroup to work with communities and stakeholders to identify early investment opportunities and challenges in preparation for Opportunity Funds and to facilitate equitable and sustainable development using the OZ tool where possible.
• Policy Inventory: A key work stream that we have identified involves the need for state agencies and communities to identify, strengthen, and preserve those federal, state, and local programs that can serve effectively as Opportunity Zone co-investment tools. While this will be a Commerce led initiative, it will be another key piece of work for the Inter-agency Workgroup.
• Investor Engagement: The Commerce Opportunity Zones team is actively pursuing opportunities to connect with investors across the country and engage in discussions with investor groups and OZ Funds in early stages of formation. Responses so far from our meetings have been extremely positive, due to the state’s clear focus on encouraging co-investment alongside our local communities.
• Step 1 – Engage Local Stakeholders
• Step 2 – Identify Economic Development & Social Impact Priorities
• Step 3 – Identify Strategy & Existing Resources
• Step 4 – Identify Projects & Investment Opportunities
• Step 5 – Create Community Prospectus & Marketing Plan