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Marietta hosts Opportunity Appalachia forum

Photo by Janelle Patterson Marietta City Engineer Joe Tucker asks about market research justification during training at Buckeye Hills Regional Council in Marietta Tuesday on attracting investors for federal Opportunity Zone tax breaks.

Marietta played host this week to a state all-call for guidance on being investor-ready.

The Opportunity Appalachia forum was held at Buckeye Hills, inviting community representatives from across the state to hear from investment fund, state regulatory and legal agents familiar with the available tax break.

“Whether that means taking advantage of this opportunity zone tax break, or not–what I hope our communities represented get out of this is how to be ready to sell their story and their project ideas to investors,” said Development Director Bret Allphin of Buckeye Hills Regional Council.

Selling the story with community engagement, with citizen-driven requests, backed by feasibility research for how an investor could not only make a profit over 20 years from investing, but also how their investment would impact real people was the majority of guidance given at the forum on Tuesday.

“I’m from a rural state… running a $20 million opportunity zone fund,” said Charlie Spies, of Coastal Enterprises Incorporated. “It’s in our DNA to think about impact, for example, mixed-use development. The location we’ve invested in in (Washington) D.C. will have affordable housing, health care and for-profit business locations.”

Spies and Jeff Harris of Bricker and Eckler attorneys at law, explained the types of projects investors with capital gains are looking for currently including:

• Predominately real estate.

• Mixed-use development.

• Internet access and digital upgrade.

When asked if broadband access would fall under that umbrella, presenters were not keen on the investment short-term.

“We’ll do $1 to 3 million in investments but we need to place (this year’s capital gains) by the end of June,” said Spies to the crowded room. “But we’re also looking at raising additional funds. That timeframe may now be right with the project you’re thinking about but may work out with a later fund.”

Matt Peters, assistant director at Ohio Development Services Agency, explained that the state has a partner incentive for investors to utilize, too, with a state income tax credit for investments made in 2019 already in play.

Buckeye Hills, which serves as the guiding and granting local agency to channel federal Appalachian Regional Commission funding and other grants to cities, villages and counties in southeast Ohio, hosted the forum to let investors share what they’re looking for in project pitches.

Marietta City Engineer Joe Tucker asked during the technical questions portion of the training day how to justify or define market research when making pitches to investors.

Tucker is often the presenter at Marietta City Council for approval on construction projects within the city, packaging different conditional funding streams to complete those projects.

Tucker was told that technical guidance on utilizing opportunity zone funding would be available through both Main Street America, and other opportunity zone fund firms as well as the state development agency.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Opportunity Zone:

• A designated opportunity zone is a census tract that has been federally recognized as economically distressed.

• In Southeast Ohio, there are:

• 1 zone in Washington County (Marietta).

• 1 zone in Monroe County.

• 1 zone in Noble County.

• 1 zone in Morgan County.

• 4 zones in Athens County.

• For more information on how to submit a project for investor consideration within a federally recognized opportunity zone visit: opportunityzones.ohio.gov.

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