N.J. launches website to bolster interest, investment in Opportunity Zones

The state is proactively helping investors navigate Opportunity Zones, with the launch of a new webpage Tuesday.

The NJ Opportunity Zone Navigator website is a collaboration between the Governor’s Office, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority.

“The Opportunity Zone Navigator gives invaluable insight to investors, businesses and local governments. The tool provides a quick view of the zones with overlapping layers of complexity,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “The one-stop shop and Navigator provide the missing link needed to connect municipalities with the right investors. At the end of the day, it’s about investing in our communities.”

Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service continues to work on the regulations and guidelines for Opportunity Funds.

The tax-free capital gains investment program was passed as part of the federal tax reform, and sponsored by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

The IRS is tasked with the final rules around how Opportunity Funds will exist and operate, but investors are already gearing up to take part in the new program.

“Given that minority- and women-owned businesses comprise over half of the firms in the state, they have the potential to be a strong economic engine for New Jersey,” said Hester Agudosi, chief of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “The Opportunity Zone Navigator will serve as an excellent tool to help microtarget this community in an effort to maximize that potential. Ultimately, we want to make sure that, when investment opportunities materialize, they do so equitably so that community stakeholders, and not just investors, are able to partake in and benefit from this transformation.”

Opportunity Zones are selected census tracts that are identified as distressed communities — with a disproportionate lower-income population — and are in need of redevelopment and investment.

New Jersey has 169 such tracts, and the new website has several layers and pages to help interested investors look through them.

“A central focus of our efforts at the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority is ensuring that the targeted low-income communities fully benefit from the funding opportunities generated by the Opportunity Zone program,” said Leslie A. Anderson, CEO and president of NJRA. “The NJ Opportunity Zone Navigator is an essential step toward ensuring access to key information and resources for the communities that need it most.”

EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said the Opportunity Zones play into the governor’s vision for the state’s economy.

“We are excited that New Jersey’s Opportunity Zone program aligns with this vision and holds the promise of driving significant investment in areas of the state that need it most,” he said. “The one-stop shop and innovative Navigator tool will best position our state to take full advantage of this initiative and exemplify the Murphy administration’s commitment to making government work better for the benefit of our communities and residents.”

When users click on a zone on the site, they can see the demographic makeup of the zone, as well as other details of the region.

The map has “over 30 layers of data,” according to a statement Wednesday.

“Supporting New Jersey’s Opportunity Zones is a vital component of our plan to build a stronger and fairer economy,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “I am thrilled to announce the launch of the NJ Opportunity Zone Navigator, a tool that truly leverages New Jersey’s innovation economy to encourage investment across our state.”