Montrose, CO — With the goal of growing more innovative economic development and creating new business markets, the City of Montrose continues to be at the forefront of implementing Opportunity Zone policy on the Western Slope. The city was recognized for this work this week by Forbes magazine.
While city officials continued this work at a conference in Grand Junction this week, the Montrose community was recognized by the national publication for “demonstrating commitment to equitable economic Opportunity Zone stewardship," along with two other Colorado communities; Colorado Springs, and, Pagosa Springs.
Colorado has earned national recognition as one of the top 20 communities and Opportunity Zone funds programs due to its commitment to achieving equitable economic growth in underserved and overlooked communities as identified by The Forbes OZ 20: Top Opportunity Zone Catalysts, a partnership between the Sorenson Impact Center and Forbes magazine.
The Opportunity Zone program was created as part of the 2017 federal tax reform package also known as the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," to encourage capital investment in low-growth and economically distressed communities across the country.
Currently, there are 126 census tracts in Colorado designated as Opportunity Zones. In Montrose County altogether there are four census tracts identified as Opportunity Zones. The census tracts, identified as 966202, 966503, and, 966300, encompass a large portion of the City of Montrose, expanding north and east to the Montrose County boundaries with Delta and Gunnison counties. Tract 966100 encompasses large portions of western Montrose County, including the West End.
"We are honored to be recognized as a national leader in Opportunity Zones,” Governor Jared Polis told the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). “With 126 designated zones that span the state, Colorado’s Opportunity Zones are attracting capital to our state, helping to grow our economy and supporting our rural communities. I’m proud of all the hard work so many have done to ensure Colorado leads the way in deploying this compelling federal tax incentive.”
This year Montrose city officials continued their proactive approach to the Opportunity Zone program with a partnership with Montrose County to develop an investment prospectus and earned meetings with White House officials to stay up-to-date with Opportunity Zone policy.
Montrose is a hub for outdoor recreation and thus a participant in the state's $2 billion annual outdoor recreation economy. With Montrose’s vibrant airport featuring direct flights to both coasts and the city’s $10 million investment in developing a fiber-optic network to become a Gigabit City, combined with unlimited recreational opportunities and 300-plus days of sunshine, Montrose is primed for new development.
In April, Montrose Mayor Dave Bowman traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the White House Opportunity Zone Conference to learn about initiatives that can be implemented on state and local levels. Montrose was one of just a few Colorado municipalities invited to attend the conference.
In September, City of Montrose Director of Business Innovation and Tourism Chelsea Rosty was invited to an exclusive, invitation-only meeting with Scott Turner, the executive director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, to discuss the local implementation of federal Opportunity Zone monetary policy.
Rosty was the only representative from a municipality to attend that meeting held in Denver.
"Colorado's Western Slope has come together to be a collaborative big player for Opportunity Zone investment," Rosty said. "In addition to the prestigious honor of receiving the Forbes OZ Top 20, Montrose presented Thursday at a huge Opportunity Zone pitch event in Grand Junction. One-third of the audience was investors and we've already received interest from the event. Every time something like this happens, it is one more deposit into the big bucket of momentum we have going in Montrose."
The OEDIT reported more than 8,700 Opportunity Zones were designated as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. These zones were selected in collaboration with state and federal leaders to drive investment into distressed communities. The incentive offers deferments and savings on capital gains when investors deploy funds in Opportunity Zone projects. Investments in Opportunity Zones are empowering teachers to live in the communities they serve, extending grid infrastructure and solar array construction in rural America, and expanding economic opportunity.
“Colorado took a strategic, data-driven and community-involved approach to identifying its designated Opportunity Zones,” said Jana Persky, Opportunity Zone administrator at OEDIT. “Opportunity Zones and funds are powerful assets in our economic development toolkit. We have brought together diverse stakeholders to work in areas that had the necessary foundation of assets and infrastructure to attract investment, but lacked meaningful investment activity to impact communities. These deliberate efforts have created tremendous opportunity for investment in Colorado and, as a result, we are starting to see transformative changes.”
Jim Sorenson, the founder of the Sorenson Impact Center, said, “We received 113 applications to the Forbes OZ 20, with 62 funds and 51 communities testing their OZ strategies through a rigorous selection process."
“The quality and standard of applications were excellent with communities and OZ funds showing a clear commitment to social impact. We are excited to share the learning’s from the Forbes OZ 20 to help other community organizations and OZ funds deliver real and meaningful change in the communities they support.”
The Forbes OZ 20 officially launched in the spring of 2019, with applications closing at the end of August 2019. The purpose of this new list is to showcase how large and small investors, as well as rural and urban communities, are pioneering dynamic, equity-minded approaches to the revitalization of distressed communities. By elevating the best examples of OZ work from around the country we hope to showcase the promise and possibilities of the entire OZ landscape.
The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade contributed to this report.
View the Forbes magazine report here: www.ozcatalyst.org.
For more city news visit CityOfMontrose.org.