Newark is 1st city to get Opportunity Zone grant aimed at socially responsible investment

Newark has been awarded a grant of nearly $1 million from the Rockefeller Foundation and Prudential Financial as part of an initiative to help U.S. cities attract responsible private investment in economically distressed communities through Opportunity Zones.

The initiative is part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s U.S. Jobs and Economic Opportunity program focused on expanding economic opportunity for low-income Americans through policy, partnership and place-based transformation.

The foundation said the initiative aims to make it easier for cities to attract and responsibly deploy some of the more than $6 trillion of unrealized capital gains that could qualify for investment in Opportunity Zones.

The grant, the first of six the Rockefeller Foundation plans to announce, will total $920,000. It will be administered through the Newark Alliance.

In addition to funding a chief opportunity officer position and two community engagement specialists, each city also will receive two years of support in the form of a national Opportunity Zone Technical Assistance team to compile and leverage local, state and federal incentives, and help structure and support deals.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka was thrilled the city received the grant.

“The only way to make sure the ‘opportunity’ in Opportunity Zones benefits all Newark residents is to intentionally focus resources to ensure it happens,” he said in a release. “I am so pleased that, through the support of our longtime partner in progress, Prudential, Newark was able to be the first city in the Rockefeller Foundation initiative.”

Lata Reddy, Prudential’s senior vice president of diversity, inclusion and impact, said the program embodies what Prudential believes in.

“Prudential is committed to maximizing the potential impact of the Opportunity Zone program to spur catalytic investments in our hometown of Newark,” she said. “By providing capital, as well as our expertise from our other Newark redevelopment and Opportunity Zone projects, we will help close the gap between inequality and opportunity as the city grows.

“Our partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation is a crucial step toward ensuring that inclusive, responsible investment benefits all Newark residents and communities.”

Rajiv J. Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said his group sees the enormous potential the Opportunity Zone program brings.

“Opportunity Zones have the potential to unlock billions of dollars in innovative job creation and community infrastructure private investment in cities, lifting up Americans who most need this support and preventing their displacement by irresponsible development,” he said.

“Philanthropy has an important role to play in ensuring opportunity zones improve the lives of the residents in distressed communities. Starting with Newark, the Rockefeller Foundation will help empower communities to attract and implement investments that will provide real economic mobility to the greatest numbers of disadvantaged people.”