DALLAS — John Hancock and his firm, Ozone LLC, want to keep Opportunity Zones straightforward for investors and property owners in Polk, Marion and Yamhill counties.
“We wanted to originate single purpose LLCs with individual investments. That is: keep it simple, not complex,” Hancock said at the Aug. 21 Opportunity Zone informational meeting Dallas hosted. “If there is a project, and investors wish to invest in that project, let’s create an LLC. Keep it relatively easy to understand.”
Hancock, a retired certified public accountant, and his partners, business owner and real estate investor Spike Bailey, and attorney John Ballinger, decided they wanted to focus on zones in rural areas because those in urban areas would attract the most attention.
“What about the rural communities, smaller communities that have opportunity zones?” Hancock said at the meeting, which drew around 50 people. “There are a lot of them. That’s really not where the funds will necessarily go easily unless there’s someone to facilitate the creation of the fund.”
They teamed up to be that facilitator in the three-county region.
Opportunity Zones were created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, and serve as way to create partnerships or corporations that invest in improvements on qualified property within a zone. Investors can benefit from capital gains tax incentives. The law designated low-income U.S. Census tracts as possible Opportunity Zones and states were able to select about 25 percent of those. Oregon has 86, two of which are in Polk County, in Dallas and West Salem.
The Dallas zone includes the eastern third of the city and parts of the surrounding unincorporated area extending east to Rickreall.
Hancock said Ozone Capital wants to help bring together interested property owners, investors and developers to create a fund for a project.
“It’s our thought to keep it local to the extent we can. Local folks really appreciate the development in their community, and if we can get them to the table and invest, that’s great,” Hancock said. “That would even include the property owners themselves to the extent that we can.”
As for investors, the firm’s job is to analyze and manage the fund to make sure they get a return on their investment.
“We will charge for creation of the fund, and management of the fund on behalf of investors,” Hancock said.
Ozone Capital isn’t the only resource for those interested in learning about Opportunity Zones or starting a project.
Stephen Brooks, the director of Oregon Opportunity Zones Initiative, has been traveling the state on an outreach mission to offer assistance to those interested in starting a project and to local economic development agencies.
The Oregon Opportunity Zone Initiative is funded by the Meyer Memorial Trust, Oregon Community Foundation and the Ford Family Foundation, with a goal to “help ensure that capital from Opportunity Funds are targeted to rural and underserved communities throughout the state.”
“The question is, how can you help communities like Dallas and other parts of the state take advantage of this in a way that fits within the ecosystem of the community?” Brooks said. “As the program has matured, it’s become clearer how money is actually deployed through the program in different communities.”
Like Hancock, Brooks said he’s noticed a trend of investors looking to urban-area projects as a safer bet.
“When you get down to smaller communities, it’s much more difficult to attract attention from outside investors, because they are actually looking for money first. In order to attract money, they need projects that look really good on paper,” Brooks said. “We’ve figured out over time that in order to bring capital to communities outside the metropolitan areas, is to start at the ground level and build it up. What I’m here to do is to say I would like to start that process in your local community.”
He said his goal is to work through local agencies — city and county economic development departments — to identify possible properties and investors. Brooks said he’s done several informational meetings on Opportunity Zones, and interest is high, but people don’t know where to go next.
“There’s no local infrastructure,” he said. “What we are really trying to do is create useful and global infrastructure, so that if you are interested, you can actually talk to someone.”
For more information about Dallas’ Opportunity Zone: www.ci.dallas.or.us/769/Economic-Development.
For more information about Ozone Capital, go to ozonecapitalLLC.com. To find out more about the Oregon Opportunity Zone Initiative, go to missioninvestors.org/resources/oregon-opportunity-zone-initiative.