RapidChat: Dana Doll & Michelle Hoexum on Opportunity Zoning implications for Treetops Collective

By structuring their new project with donations and opportunity zone investments, Dana Doll, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Treetops Collective — who focuses on connecting New American women with their new community—is excited to partner with investors and donors in restoring a 100 year old building on the South Division Corridor. With the help of Michelle Hoexum, CEO of Propeller, they will be building out new spaces, enabling them to partner with other leaders who are working with New American families.
Rapid Growth: What qualifies as an opportunity zone?

Michelle Hoexum: Simply stated, Opportunity Zones are communities that have struggled to deliver economic opportunity to their residents for at least a generation. 

RG: How are they designated?

MH: They were designated in March of 2018 by the governors of all 50 states including Puerto Rico and DC. Governors selected tracts on the whole that demonstrated far more distress across nearly every available social and economic measure that the eligible tracts represented. Qualified Opportunity Zones stand to be one of the most exciting economic and community development experiments in the last several decades. 

In the city of Grand Rapids there are eight zones and two in the city of Wyoming. 8,766 individual census tracts exist as Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs).

RG: What is the benefit for the person who invests in an Opportunity Zone?
MH: The Opportunity Zones program established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 offers a couple of tax benefits.
Michelle Hoexum
RG: What should an investor consider when investing in an Opportunity Zone?

MH: A taxpayer/investor should consider their capital gains position that can be invested in a long term investment, optimizing a ten year patient capital horizon. As with any investment there are suitability risks and returns to consider. This investment should be made in conjunction with accounting and financial advisors. 

Dana Doll: Opportunity zones hold a special designation for communities that need investment. We are excited to partner with investors and donors in restoring a 100 year old building on the South Division Corridor for the purpose of investing in the lives of people in our neighborhood—specifically our newest neighbors.

RG: Can Treetops Collective operate outside of an opportunity zone?

MH: Yes. Treetops Collective is located in a Qualified Opportunity Zone. A QOZ does not impact operations only the unique added ability to offer deferral/reduced/eliminated capital gains based investment incentives. Place matters, this is a place based investor benefit, so insuring investors want success with the mission matters. 

RG: What other local non-profits operate within opportunity zones?

MH: There are eight QOZs in Grand Rapids, a map is here. How many non-profits operate in the zones is not known by this author, but significant concentration is likely.

RG: How do opportunity zones impact Treetops Collective’s comprehensive work?

DD: By structuring this project with donations and opportunity zone investments, we will be able to make this vision a reality and create a sustainable community center for years to come. We are thrilled to make 906 Division our permanent home and a place where our newest refugee neighbors can meet people, find opportunity, and make this community home. Not only will this renovation allow us to both expand the number of people we serve in our women’s cohorts and growing social enterprise, it will also build out event space and co-working space that will allow us to partner with other leaders who are working with New American families.

MH: Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOZFs) are a unique opportunity for the right investor looking to partner with Treetops Collective on their $1.8m capital improvement campaign to purchase and rehab the headquarters located at 906 Division Ave. This is a great opportunity for Treetops Collective to broaden its scope and engage with investors who might not previously fit their profile. Investments in QOZ have largely been made in real estate by way of equity investments. Momentum is gaining for businesses in the Opportunity Zones to be funded as well.

Utilizing these unique tax incentives stacked with philanthropy and revenue will allow a sustainable path forward with multiple partners working with New American families. Collective is in the name, but it’s also the mission and model. Partnering alongside other leaders who are investing in the community—and ensuring Grand Rapids is a welcoming place—where everyone has the chance to put down roots and flourish with their families.

Jenna K. Morton is he RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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