Opportunity Alabama is Combining Community & Capital to Fulfill the Potential of Opportunity Zones


ImpactAlpha, Apr. 29 – A senior-care facility in Heflin, Alabama, population 5,000. A restored hotel in Selma. Workforce housing and an historic theatre in Birmingham. In the last three years, Opportunity Alabama has helped facilitate more than a dozen real estate projects, totaling more than $300 million, in low-income areas of one of the nation’s poorest states. The projects, which meet needs identified by community partners are located in Opportunity Zones, qualifying investors in the projects for capital gains tax breaks that were included in the 2017 tax cuts. The strategy of building projects up from the grassroots, rather than down from the financing, has made Opportunity Alabama appealing even to nonprofit investors who can’t take advantage of the tax break. The organization has raised $13 million for The Opal Fund, a joint venture with Blueprint Local, a place-based investment platform led by Village Capital founder Ross Baird. Blueprint Local has also raised Opportunity Funds in Baltimore and Texas’ Austin-San Antonio corridor. Local foundations that have invested in the Opal Fund, including Regions Foundation and Alabama Power Foundation, provided “institutional validation” that helped Opportunity Alabama unlock gains-motivated capital from family offices and private investors including the Jemison Investment Co., says Alex Flachsbart,the young economic development lawyer in Birmingham who jumped quickly to take advantage of the tax breaks to build up the capital ecosystem for low-income rural and urban centers across Alabama. The momentum in Alabama “speaks to the latent power of Opportunity Zones,” Flachsbart told ImpactAlpha. “The incentive is powerful enough, and it’s got a reach that’s broad enough and an aperture wide enough to start the conversation about investing in low-income places that we haven’t been having for the last 100 years.” Click here to read the full article.