According to Boston University – Initiative on Cities – affectionately referred to as the Menino Survey – “Mayors generally believe the new federal Opportunity Zones program has targeted the right areas, nationally and in their own communities.
Community government is starting to take the lead in organizing their communities to take advantage of their tract designations and are confident in their ability to capitalize on the program. Mayors believe dedicated senior staff and an Opportunity Zone Investment program will be a key factor in making a census tract attractive and interesting.
– Roughly three quarters of cities in the survey sample had eligible census tracts, and two-thirds now have at least one designated opportunity zone, with an average of six per city
– 51% of mayors believe the Opportunity Zone program has effectively targeted areas of true economic need nationally
– 29% are unsure, suggesting a large minority are unaware or not yet confident the program is working as intended. [Figure 28]
– 65% of mayors agree that the tracts selected by their governor were either based on their own advice, or are comparable to what the mayor would have picked if they had been given the choice. [Figure 29]
– Mayors generally believe (79% of Democratic Mayors and 65% of Republican Mayors) that designations were driven by a desire on the part of governors to spread them across the state, and were responsive to mayors’ input. [Figure 33]
– Generally their degree of satisfaction with their own designations does not vary substantially by city size, partisanship of the mayor, or affluence of the community. [Figures 31-32]
– Mayors are generally NOT concerned that the program will lead to gentrification or residential displacement, including those leading more expensive cities, or that limited funds will ultimately be invested in their OZs. [Figure 35]
More than 50% believe the OZ program will have a large and positive impact on their local economy, with the greatest benefits conferred on outside investors but that small businesses and residents currently located in the zones will also greatly benefit. [Figures 36 and 39]
– The vast majority (75%) of mayors believe they have the capacity and power to maximize the benefits of their zones. Mayors believe the main mechanisms to maximize the benefits are: dedicated senior staff in city hall (54%) and an Opportunity Zone Investment brochure that outlines their community’s priorities and specific opportunities and assets (50%) and 34% believe supplemental monetary incentives will also be important. [Figures 37 and 41]
– 71% say the economic development director or city administrator is taking the lead in organizing the community to capitalize on the designations. [Figure 42]
– When it comes to their own role, 43% of mayors believe their job is to serve as an advocate for their city and its zones, and promote them to investors. [Figure 43]
Some very interesting numbers at a time when some national publications are saying the program is not working. While some zones may not be in the right spot or more difficult to develop or in the path of development already, they all needed to be part of the 2010 HUD census data for low income areas. Worth taking a read of the survey if you have the time and interest. Good stuff in there – well done BU!