Gov. Phil Murphy (far right) speaks to Lyft Chief Policy Officer and former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx during a program hosted by Choose New Jersey. Jose Lozano, the organization’s CEO, moderated the discussion. — Photo by Edwin Torres/Governor’s Office
By Joshua Burd
State officials are hoping to spur action by municipalities that are home to Opportunity Zones, unveiling a grant offering to help local leaders strategize for the federal program.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced the launch of the new competitive funding initiative, which will reportedly award $100,000 grants to five municipalities. Known as the New Jersey Opportunity Zone Challenge, the program will look to boost local community-based capacity in financial and technical planning, offering assistance in identifying specific needs, leveraging local resources and advancing projects through the development process.
New Jersey is home to 169 Opportunity Zones under the program — created under the 2017 federal tax reform package — which offers favorable tax treatment to capital gains that are invested in certain low-income or distressed areas. Those zones are spread across 75 municipalities in the state’s 21 counties.
The state Economic Development Authority, which is spearheading the program alongside the state Department of Community Affairs and the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, is expected to issue a request for proposals this spring.
“Attracting investment to areas of the state that have been overlooked or perceived by investors as overly risky is key to achieving our goals for a stronger and fairer economy,” Murphy said. “We are working together across state government to help Opportunity Zone communities put their best foot forward as they compete for investment dollars on a national scale.”
Murphy announced the program in New Brunswick during the New Jersey Opportunity Zone Summit, which was hosted by Choose New Jersey. He joined a discussion with Anthony Foxx, the chief policy officer for Lyft and former U.S. transportation secretary, along with Choose New Jersey CEO Jose Lozano.
The second-year governor also revisited Trenton’s other efforts to facilitate investment in New Jersey’s Opportunity Zones. That includes the NJ Opportunity Zone Marketplace, a real estate and business equity project sharing portal that will allow qualified investors nationwide to access eligible New Jersey projects and advance a project.
The portal is slated to launch this summer.
“Opportunity Zones are designed to attract investments to some of our most underserved communities to spur economic growth and job opportunities in all 21 counties,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver, who also serves as the DCA’s commissioner. “We are optimistic that the partnerships we are building today between stakeholders and municipalities will provide the competitive edge needed to reach a broader audience so development projects succeed at every stage — from concept to completion.”