Recently, at Accelerator for America’s advisory council meeting in Oklahoma City, I joined John Porcari, WSP’s president of Advisory Services, and Stuart Sunshine, director of state and local government affairs, to share first-hand case studies and strategies related to WSP’s approaches and successes in Opportunity Zone initiatives.
Those in attendance at the advisory council meeting included many of the country’s leading mayors and urban thinkers, including Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti, Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, thought leader Bruce Katz, and venture capital investor Ross Baird.
The conversations at the advisory council meeting focused on the topic of “Community Wealth,” a reframing from what is traditionally entitled “Community Development.” This reframing focuses less on a top-down housing approach to community development, and more of a bottom-up approach focusing on community assets.
WSP contributed to this conversation by discussing ways in which communities are leveraging the Opportunity Zone tax benefit and otherwise supporting a new system of community wealth. The topics of conversation included:
- Investment Prospectuses: Mapping out a community’s assets, anchor institutions, and projects for investment
- Intentionality and Inclusivity: Building capacity and organization around managing and directing capital, and measuring its impacts
- Financial and Technical Assistance: Supporting entrepreneurs with financial assistance to display their projects to potential investors
- New Financing Vehicles: New mechanisms and structures for investment, including the neighborhood trust model
- New Urban Institutions: Civic/private or public/private institutions that can manage and direct neighborhood investment such as Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation and Erie Downtown Development Corporation
These tools are the foundation for a new approach to community wealth building, and WSP is engaged and leading at the forefront of how communities will invest in themselves in the coming decades.