The promise of being the base for Amazon’s second headquarters was great — so great, in fact, 238 cities jumped into the intense, year-long competition. Contenders had so much faith in the impact they promised robust urban transit systems, tax breaks, talent pipelines and infrastructure support.
I saw this first-hand locally, where three counties in South Florida banded together to present a single proposal. They understood that, alone, none of them were a compelling contender. It worked, and they made the top 20 shortlist.
Ultimately, Amazon selected locations on the outskirts of well-established hubs, New York City and Washington, D.C. But the same questions for cities and states remain. How do we capitalize on the momentum generated by Amazon HQ2? What do we do with the long list of incentives? Can we generate the impact – or more – of the tech giant coming to town?
Cities across the United States face a host of challenges: job creation, building scalable enterprises, affordable housing, sustainability in the age of climate change, equity and inclusion. These priorities are as diverse as they are entangled.
No single individual – not the most brilliant inventor or revolutionary leader – can tackle any of these challenges alone. To make meaningful progress, we must collaborate on cross-institutional and cross-interest solutions.
Opportunity Zones as vehicles for equitable growth
Opportunity Zones (OZs) might just be the right vehicle. There are 8,700 such districts nationwide, which allow investors to defer their capital gains taxes if they invest in real estate, infrastructure and businesses in these designated low-income zones.