NJEDA announces Opportunity Zone Challenge Program

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has launched a competitive grant program to support community efforts to attract investments in Opportunity Zones, it announced Tuesday.

The Opportunity Zone Challenge Program will help fund community planning around Opportunity Zone-based investments and development, the EDA said.

“New Jersey’s Opportunity Zones have the potential to transform struggling communities that investors have overlooked for years into thriving centers of employment, economic growth, and development,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who also serves as commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “The Opportunity Zone Challenge Program is a key component of Governor Murphy’s plan to empower municipal and county governments with the resources and tools they need to attract the right investors to their communities.”

As part of the federal incentive, capital from the funds must be invested in OZ businesses or projects for a fixed period of time in order for investors to access the full tax benefit. New Jersey currently has 169 OZs throughout 75 municipalities and all 21 counties.

“The Federal Opportunity Zone program is a unique tool that communities can use to drive long-term, transformative investment in the most underserved areas of our state, and the NJEDA is committed to helping municipalities and counties benefit from the opportunities it provides,” NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan said. “The Opportunity Zone Challenge Program will jumpstart community-led revitalization in these areas by providing the resources communities need to catalyze investment in their Opportunity Zones.”

The program will award five grants of up to $100,000 each, for a total of $500,000, to applicants that demonstrate a clear strategic plan to build investment capacity in their OZs. The challenge is open to all 75 New Jersey municipalities and 21 counties that contain at least a part of an OZ census tract. As part of the challenge, applicants must prepare a 6-month proposal and select at least one strategic partner.

“The federal Opportunity Zone program is a chance for communities that have been overlooked to finally attract the types of investments they need to unlock their full potentials,” Leslie A. Anderson, CEO and president of the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority. “The Opportunity Zone Challenge Program is important because it will not only incentivize these communities to take a proactive approach to attracting investments through the Opportunity Zone program, but it will also provide the resources they need to execute their plans.”