Indiana University Kelley School of Business has developed a tool for the federal government to help developers invest in opportunity zones that are supposed to boost low-income areas. While some say the zones don’t help those in need, one federal official says the tool will help areas in critical need.
The U.S. Economic Development Administration announced Tuesday a new web-based map that shows the median income, population and much more in each area across the country.
John Fleming is U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. He says he used to be a developer, and having the data all in one place will help increase private investment into the zones.
“For me, I’m not gonna invest my money unless I have data,” says Fleming. “I want to have data. I want to know what my investment is going for; I want to know what the chance of success is; I want to reduce risk.”
The Trump administration introduced opportunity zones with the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act with a goal of driving more private investment to financially distressed areas.
These opportunity zones have come under scrutiny after some developers invested in up-and-coming areas or built luxury apartments instead of low-income housing.
Fleming says he doesn’t believe the tool will be misused.
“They’re going to be looking for low hanging fruit of course, but as they improve and come up with better and better business models,” he says. “I think you’ll see that their investments, as they grow more comfortable with this concept, will go into more and more challenging areas.”
Fleming says he believes the tool will make data more easily available and help draw more private investment into opportunity zones.