Erie Chamber Blog
Thursday February 27,  2020
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Seriously, THE White House.

-Amy Murdock, Director of Government Affairs, Erie Regional Chamber

-Brett Wiler, Director of Capital Formation, Erie Regional Chamber

Recently, the Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership and The Flagship Opportunity Zone (a division of the Chamber) debuted the “White House Reinvestment Roadmap,” the city’s second investment prospectus. In late 2018, Erie became the nation’s first city to release a municipal-level Opportunity Zone prospectus, which helped pave the way for the early interest in the nation’s top urban OZ.

This time, the Chamber team is aiming their efforts at a specific investment partner: The White House.

More specifically, the Roadmap is targeted toward the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council.

The Council, formed in part to help reduce barriers and spur private-sector investment in Opportunity Zones, has identified five different focus areas for potential project funding:

  • Economic Development
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Safe Neighborhoods
  • Education & Workforce Development
  • Measurement (or, in layman’s terms, determining how effective OZs are in revitalizing communities)

In identifying those focus areas, the Council recognizes a universal truth: Successful economic development does not begin with tax policy alone. It begins by building a healthier, investment-ready community.

So, why Erie?

Why should the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council partner with our region?

To begin with, Erie has:

  • High potential for impact and return on investment.
  • Private market momentum, matched by state and philanthropic support.
  • Defined social- and community-impact guidelines for private investment.
  • Shared priorities for the community, including political-, public-, and private-sector alignment.
  • Economic development talent and institutional capacity.

In addition to talent, capacity, infrastructure, will, and momentum, Erie has a wealth of exciting projects that fit the Council’s focus areas, including:

  • A reimagined industrial corridor along 12th
  • A plan to improve the connection between Presque Isle, the city’s Bayfront, downtown, and the neighboring community.
  • Additional federal funding for the Erie Opportunity Zone Revolving Loan Fund.
  • Improvements to Erie’s east side, including the removal of abandoned homes and the construction of mixed-income and affordable housing developments.
  • A new state-of-the-art Career and Technical Education Center for Erie Public Schools.
  • A Blue Zones school initiative to help improve the health and performance of Erie’s students.

Those are just a few of the projects the region’s leadership has identified for potential federal funding. Together, these projects will help make Erie’s Opportunity Zones an even more attractive investment.

Tax policy can create a powerful incentive for investors, and the early success of the Flagship Opportunity Zone is a testament to that. However, a healthy, safe community populated with a talented workforce—combined with innovative tax policy—creates an even more attractive investment. Our region is already known for having exceptional assets, especially in key industries like manufacturing.

However, support from the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council will help access the federal resources that can make the projects listed above become a reality.

It is no secret this White House has been a vocal supporter of Opportunity Zones.

It is also no secret that our region firmly believes OZs will play an important role in building a better tomorrow for our entire community. The focus areas the White House Council has identified—and the projects our region is seeking federal funding for—illustrate that the point of this program was never to simply offer a tax break to the wealthy.

Frankly, there are simpler ways to reduce the tax impact of capital gains.

Opportunity Zones, since their inception, have appealed to investors who believe the best path forward for economically challenged regions is through a community-level approach to economic development, along with alignment between a city’s public and private sectors. In other words, OZs appeal to investors that value communities that understand economic development begins in homes, playgrounds, and classrooms.

In Erie, we know opportunity isn’t just defined by the boundaries of a census tract.

Opportunity is something people spend their whole life searching for.  

With the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council’s help, we can start helping our community find it.

We can continue to create an Erie that attracts investors from across the nation, and an Erie that people are proud to come home to.

  • erie
  • erie pa
  • reinvestment
  • opportunity zones
  • white house

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