EDA launches Opportunity Zone Marketplace in effort to ease, increase investment

It’s one thing to have areas designated as Opportunity Zones. It’s another to help investors and developers — both in New Jersey and across the country — understand where they are and what opportunities are available in them.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is attempting to address that.

Tuesday, the EDA launched the New Jersey Opportunity Zone Marketplace, an online portal designed to help connect investors nationwide with business investment, real estate and community improvement projects in New Jersey’s 75 Opportunity Zone municipalities.

Access the New Jersey Opportunity Zones Marketplace at oppsites.com/newjerseymarketplace.

The Marketplace is part of a suite of programs the NJEDA is advancing in partnership with the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority and New Jersey Department of Community Affairs aimed at supporting investments that will provide positive growth in New Jersey communities in Opportunity Zones.

Tim Sullivan, the CEO of the EDA, said he hopes the Marketplace will help the state attract key investment in underserved areas.

“Attracting investment to areas that have long been overlooked is a critical component of Gov. (Phil) Murphy’s plan for a stronger and fairer New Jersey economy,” he said. “The New Jersey Opportunity Zone Marketplace will connect investors from all over the world with growing New Jersey businesses and redevelopment projects in parts of the state that have suffered from disinvestment.

“This is a critical step to advance community-supported change in these areas of the state, and the DCA’s Impact Measurement research will provide the data we need to ensure the Marketplace and other programs targeting Opportunity Zones are achieving the administration’s goals.”

The NJ Opportunity Zone Marketplace includes a Project Marketplace featuring business and real estate project opportunities, and a Network that facilitates connections between investors, developers, local leaders, project sponsors, business and property owners, and service providers to drive meaningful investments in Opportunity Zones throughout the state.

Individuals and organizations can join the Statewide Network, as well as Local Networks in every city, county, township and borough to learn about opportunities and start communicating with project sponsors, community members and local leaders about potential projects. This resource will enable all municipalities in the state’s Opportunity Zones to post business and real estate projects at no charge.

Parallel to the launch of the Opportunity Zone Marketplace, New Jersey will begin to assess the impact of Opportunity Zones using the Impact Measurement research initiative, a long-term analysis of Opportunity Zone communities in New Jersey focused on measuring progress toward the Murphy administration’s goals.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said the DCA-led effort launched during the summer is an analysis of multiple measures to look at the impact of Opportunity Zone investments on community development activity, business growth and other key economic indicators. This data collection will be critical to ensuring New Jersey’s Opportunity Zone program effectively advances catalytic projects that improve the targeted communities.

“One of our top priorities is using the Opportunity Zone program to drive positive change in communities that have suffered from decades of underinvestment,” Oliver, who also serves as DCA commissioner, said. “The valuable data collected through the NJ Opportunity Zone Community Impact Measurement initiative will allow us to identify the programs that are having the biggest impact. This is critical to addressing the challenges Opportunity Zones face in an efficient, effective way that puts the community’s interests first.”

Leslie Anderson, the CEO of the NJRA, said the programs are another step toward progress in underserved areas.

“NJRA has a long history of success in areas facing redevelopment challenges,” she said. “Now, as we partner with the NJEDA and DCA, New Jersey is well positioned to optimize the chance Opportunity Zones present for driving capital into underserved communities to have a triple bottom line impact.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said these state programs are the type of things he had in mind when he sponsored the Opportunity Zone legislation.

“Opportunity Zones were designed to empower community leaders to attract investment and create opportunity for their residents,” he said. “The New Jersey Opportunity Zone Marketplace is exactly the type of tool needed to connect investors to the state’s 75 Opportunity Zone municipalities to fully take advantage of this program.

“The Marketplace, along with the state’s suite of initiatives like Impact Measurement, will open up investments in our Opportunity Zones and help unleash our state’s full potential, while tracking and analyzing projects to ensure they reach targeted communities that have for too long been overlooked. With that goal in mind, I am pushing bipartisan legislation to make certain we have reporting like this on the federal level, too.”

In addition to the Opportunity Zone Marketplace, New Jersey’s whole-of-government approach to driving Opportunity Zone investment includes the NJEDA’s Opportunity Zone Challenge, a Community Asset Map with data on Opportunity Zone communities, and various technical support resources for Opportunity Zone communities and entrepreneurs.

More information about these and other resources is available at: nj.gov/governor/njopportunityzones/.