Much of rural America has been left behind in the economic recovery that has transpired since the Great Recession. Can Opportunity Zone investing reverse that trend?
The Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone in northwest Washington state is a unique group of rural municipalities and tribal nations that has collaborated on producing a portfolio of rural Opportunity Zone projects with scale. What have been some of their biggest challenges so far?
Click the play button below to listen to my conversation with Julie, Rod, and Larry.
- A characterization of the economic decline in rural America, why it hasn’t recovered since the recession, and the importance of the Opportunity Zones initiative for rural communities.
- How the five tribes, four cities, two counties, and two port authorities got together to form the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone.
- The challenge for investors to find rural Opportunity Zone investments.
- The challenge for community-driven Opportunity Zone projects — particularly in rural areas — to get off the ground.
- The disconnect between how rural projects in low-income communities have been funded historically through public grant writing versus the private source of capital for the Opportunity Zones initiative — and the challenge that poses.
- Some of the major differences between rural Opportunity Zones vs. urban Opportunity Zones.
- The biggest challenges that the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone group has faced.
Featured on This Episode
- Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone
- Julie Knott on LinkedIn
- Clallam County EDC
- Rod Fleck on LinkedIn
- City of Forks
- Larry Burtness on LinkedIn
- Quileute Tribe
- State of Washington Opportunity Zones
- EIG Webinar on Strategies for Community-led Opportunity Zone Investment
- Northstar Opportunity Zones
- Forbes & Sorenson Impact Center: OZ Catalyst Challenge
Industry Spotlight: Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone
The Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone has a unique approach to rural Opportunity Zone investing. The group is a collaboration of multiple communities and tribal nations, spanning 14 Opportunity Zones over a very wide and disconnected geography in the northwestern part of the state of Washington.
Learn more about the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone
- Visit EmeraldFunds.org
- Follow on Twitter: @ECOZWA
- Note: Since recording this episode, Julie Knott is no longer working at Clallam County EDC. For further information on the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone, please email Colleen McAleer at [email protected].
About the Opportunity Zones Podcast
Hosted by OpportunityDb.com founder Jimmy Atkinson, the Opportunity Zones Podcast features guest interviews from fund managers, advisors, policymakers, tax professionals, and other foremost experts in opportunity zones.
Jimmy: Welcome to the Opportunity Zones Podcast. I’m your host, Jimmy Atkinson. And on today’s episode, our conversation is gonna focus on rural and tribal community development. The Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone is a conglomeration of the 14 Opportunity Zones in Clallam and Jefferson counties located in northwest Washington State. And that was a good case study for how rural communities can work together to attract private capital investment through the Opportunity Zones program. The Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone group is a collaboration of Olympic peninsula tribal nations, municipal governments, and economic development groups. And joining me today are representatives from all three of those groups. Julie Knott is regional project manager for Clallam County’s Economic Development Corporation. Rod Fleck is a city attorney for the Town of Forks, Washington. And Larry Burtness is interim general manager of the Quileute tribe. Julie, Rod, Larry, welcome to the show.
Larry: Thank you.
Rod: Thanks for having us.
Julie: Hey there.
Jimmy: Absolutely. Great to have all three of you here. We’re actually breaking a record right now. This is the most guests I’ve ever had on a single episode of the “Opportunity Zones Podcast.” We’ve got three guests plus myself. It’s the first. So, to start us off, I want you guys to kind of highlight your approach. I feel like your approach is unique for a couple of reasons. Your approach to Opportunity Zones is unique for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it’s collaborative across multiple communities, including tribal nations and over a very wide geography. And secondly, because you were involved so very early on, perhaps one of the earliest adopters in the state. Is that fair to say?
Julie: Yeah, we were the only collaborative proposal in Washington State.
Rod: And at one point, we found ourselves actually helping the state understand what the rules were as they came out at the Federal Legislation and Tax Reform Act.
Larry: Yeah. And it was… I found it interesting when we contacted the state of Washington Department of Commerce early on in the application process. They were not prepared to handle or to even entertain it, a collaborative application. They encouraged a single application from the tribe and actually, we submitted a single application with the Quileute tribe and then a supporting part of the collaborative effort with the Emerald Coast project. So, we actually had two applications in place because early on in the process, the state wasn’t sure how they were gonna be able to handle it.
Jimmy: Yeah. that’s interesting. It sounds like you from a community level kind of had to direct the state in how this was gonna all work. It was more of a bottom-up approach than a top-down approach. Is that fair to say? And it’s really interesting that the state wasn’t really all caught up to speed on this. Why were you guys ahead of the curve more so than the state in this regard?
Larry: Well, I think a few years back there were some collaborative efforts done for economic development within the tribes on the Olympic peninsula that provided a little bit of already existing network between the various tribes and kind of had some doors opened from that. From the Quileute tribe perspective, it became unnatural to do that because the census tract that the Quileute tribe is located in is much larger than the reservation boundaries. The Quileute reservation is actually very small, about one square mile on the Pacific Ocean. But the census tract that we were in stretches for nearly 30 miles outside of the reservation and then the joins to the City of Forks and the tribe owns a business park inside the City of Forks as well, which is a separate census tract. So, they became some good reasons for the tribe to engage further afield than just the tribe, just simply because of the size of the census tract and the fact that it encompassed the neighboring communities and then the adjoining neighboring census tract for the City of Forks.
Rod: I also think one of the things that was going on is there was this kind of wait and see, “Well, what does this mean?” From the federal government. “What does this tool look like? Who’s in charge of it? Who’s gonna make the rules?” That was kind of the attitude with the state where a few of us were like, “The projects, they’re the programs in place. We don’t know what the rules are, but let’s seize the opportunity that this is providing us to try to play a role in weighing out how those rules might affect us and how we could use them to our advantage. Larry and I had worked on a project years ago, very similar and turned out pretty successful to our region by being there at the front of the wave and then trying to write it on after it’s already moving.
Jimmy: Right. You know, that makes sense, Rod. Thanks for providing some insight there. And before we dive into the Opportunity Zones further, I actually wanna back up for a second and get some background on the economy of your region. So, Rod, I’ll turn to you. Can you characterize the decline of your economy? Why hasn’t it recovered since the 2008 downturn? And how important is this Opportunity Zones initiative for rural communities like yours that haven’t had the same level of recovery as some other parts of our country?
Rod: No, I don’t think…I’m gonna go out on a whim. I don’t think it’s gonna be that strange to say that Forks isn’t that unusual from other rural towns in America. That after the great recession the recovery hasn’t really reached rural America and that the issues we’ve been dealing with stem back from some significant policy shifts with regard to natural resource management, which a significant part of our economic base in western Clallam County and Jefferson County are based, timber, fishing, those type of industries. And, you know, to be an opportunity zone you have to be a low-income community. And I think that is something that needs to constantly be referred to is that that means that the community is dealing with high unemployment, high poverty, and a significant gap in the median wage between the states median wage and the community. That, I think is described most of rural America.
Jimmy: And how important is the Opportunity Zones initiative for rural communities like yours?
Rod: It’s a tool. It’s a way to attract private funding and private investors interested in making rural community part of their portfolio and bringing that potential for new development, new jobs, new economic growth, and new economic opportunity into our rural communities like Forks and like LaPush and like the Hoh and like the Makah and the other parts of our Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone.
Larry: We can build upon that issue of the economy and the various aspects of the economy here as well. As Rod mentioned, the natural resources and natural resource industries, these industries are important here. In LaPush, the natural resource that’s most important to the village is the fisheries, the commercial fisheries, and the ocean fisheries and in the river. It’s true to say, I think that just about every household on the reservation has at least one person in the household that generates income from commercial fishing.
So, the marina and the operations of the marina and the fishing systems here are really critical to the economy. That has a variety of different things that are impacting the success or failure of that industry, some of which we can control locally and some of it’s international in nature that we don’t necessarily have local control of. The other aspect of the economy here that’s important is tourism. The Olympic Peninsula is a very beautiful area. It’s extreme natural beauty. It’s a large part of the Olympic peninsula, is the Olympic National Park. And the Quileute tribe operates a resort on the reservation and has a supporting restaurant and some other facilities that are tourist-oriented.
And so, it’s an important part of the local economy that expands out a little bit away from some of the natural resource extraction kinds of industries, but still depends on the natural resources of the area.
Jimmy: Right. Right. So, yeah. Very interesting. And I’ve noticed just to circle back to that point on rural development, just speaking of the state of Washington as a whole now, and this data’s available on the Opportunity Zones database website, on the Washington State page. Washington is interesting in that it actually seem to prioritize rural communities versus urban communities when it made its opportunity zone designations more so than most of the other states across the country. Only 12% of the state of Washington’s census tracts are deemed to be rural by the census tract designations. But 29% of the Opportunity Zones are rural. So, much greater share of their Opportunity Zones are rural than the statewide census tracts. Larry, I wanted to get back to you for a second here and if you can give us any indication of the unique challenges that tribal nations like the Quileute face in today’s economic environment. You spoke a little bit about how most of the household income is derived from fishing, but if you can expand on that a little bit and give us a further indication of the challenges that the tribal nations like yours face.
Larry: Well, in Washington State there are actually quite a few tribes. There are 28 or 29 tribes, 28 maybe, in the state. Many of those tribes have casinos. Some do. The Quileute tribe does not. And in this remote location out on the extreme western edge of the Olympic Peninsula right on the ocean, the tourism issues are good, but we don’t have… A lot of people will consider some tribes to be wealthy because of casino operations that it doesn’t happen here. So, the community is very small, about 450 people live on the reservation. And the Quileute tribe has about 830 enrolled members. So, about half the tribe live elsewhere, either in Tacoma, or Olympia, or down in California, or other places where they’ve left to find jobs.
There, really, are not a lot of industry here or opportunities for high-wage jobs. The fishing industry, it can be very positive, it can generate good revenue for the people who work in that industry. But it’s also cyclical and dependent upon on the success of the resource. As an example, over the last decade, the crab fishery averages probably 800,000 pounds of crab caught per year, but two of the last three years had less than 160,000 pounds caught.
That reduction to that low level of success in the crab fishery is a disaster proportions. And in fact, we have received disaster recognition from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Compensation for that because it truly was an economic disaster to drop from 800,000 to 1 million pounds to less than 15% of that. It was a pretty serious impact on the community. It put us in a situation where the fishermen can’t maintain their boats, they can’t. And it has an impact not just in the year that the reduction take place, but for subsequent years because the vessels aren’t prepared properly or can’t be just because there’s no money available to keep the boats in operation. And it has a deteriorating effect on the facilities because the money doesn’t flow through to keep the maintenance up on the equipment and on the ice manufacturing and on the docks. It has a serious compounding effect.
Jimmy: Good. So, there’s truly a need, an economic need in this region of the country. I think you’ve, you’ve characterized it well. Julie, I wanna turn to you now and get you involved in the conversation here a little bit more. Can you tell us the story of how all of this came together, when and how was the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone put together?
Julie: Yeah, I can. Over a year ago, 15 months ago, five tribes, three cities, or four cities, two counties and two port authorities met in the same room in an unprecedented event and we prioritized our Opportunity Zones together. In our state, Governor Jay Inslee asked communities to nominate their own census tracts. So, we determined which tracts would be nominated on a competitive basis, and then we did that together.
So, we made our priorities very clear to the governor and we took a risk and submitted a collaborative proposal with proposals from all of us. And so, that was risky because we really didn’t have approval to do that yet and it hadn’t been done, but we still pressed send at 5:00 of a famous Monday to our governor. But what we had that was different was we submitted them together, but we also had over 30 letters of support for each census tract nomination. So, our community was wildly supportive of what we were trying to do as well. So, it started at that very level from the earliest time. And I think it might help to know a little bit about us because we’re in the corner of Washington State and you can see if you look in the Opportunity Zone map, they color the Opportunity Zones green and the qualified zones. And we’re very green in Washington State in the corner.
And it might help to know that we have one road in and one road out. We have a floating bridge and ferry service that’s weather-dependent and we have very little limited access to broadband and phone service. So, it can… And talk about that with our wildlands that Larry described. We have four temperate rainforest and 1 million acres of wilderness and 70 miles of wild coastline. So, it’s a real geographic challenge for us to communicate. And we did it anyway. And that was… We were the only collaborative proposal in Washington State and our governor awarded every single one of our nominations to us. So, we started off on fire and we continued on aggressively.
Jimmy: Well, that’s good for you, despite your challenges, that you’re able to come together and succeed like you did. I applaud you. I applaud the efforts that your communities took to make sure that you were designated as qualified Opportunity Zones where you needed to be designated. Can you tell us a little bit more about the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone? I wanna hear more about its strategy and its mission.
Julie: Yeah. Well, the strategy is complete cooperation and collaboration and we don’t only limit this to the Emerald Coast. We work statewide. And one of the first things that happened to us when we became a collaborative entity and called ourselves the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone is Washington State Department of Commerce and our Congressman Derek Kilmer, they were spot on and saw us coming and supported us from the very beginning because for rural Opportunity Zones to have the capacity to respond to this, is very difficult. And so, we had a lot of support from the very beginning, from the state and also from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. So, we started by listening to our community.
We spent last summer traveling around the area, a team of us, and listened to what the community wanted to know, concerns, what assistance did they need. And then from then, we did a series of workshops to educate our community about the incentives for Opportunity Zones, how it works, and how we might be able to participate. And then we started to dig in to see what kind of projects are out there. And we didn’t limit them to Opportunity Zone projects. We just asked our community, “What are you cooking? What do you have going on? What do you think?” And so, we have built a large project bank from that. And so, as investors call us, we can actually give them various types of projects, and whatever suits them, they pursue. So, that’s how all that played out. We also kept going with that. We had a statewide Opportunity Zone convention in November last year and we worked on the steering committee for that, the Emerald Coast project did with the Washington State Department of Commerce. And that was really important because investors were there, big tribes, cities, counties, and we presented our projects to investors. We learned what investors might be looking for.
And 10% of the attendance at that conference in Seattle, Washington was from the Olympic Peninsula tribes, and cities, and Opportunity Zones. And that was a huge deal because it takes an awful lot to get over there. So, again, we’ve been collaborating and as a group and being a force. And then we kept going with that as far as measuring our progress and testing…
We spent some time out in the field with investors, CPAs, and a lawyer to have them, introduce them to various types of Opportunity Zone projects we have out there to see what they think is investible. And we learned some pretty important stuff about…what we learned is we learned not to vet the projects that we present. We learned that we keep a list of every opportunity and we present or convene whenever we can. And that’s not just the projects we have locally, but across the state. When we know of another organization that has the need for solar panel manufacturing, for instance, and we know the sale on solar panels, we’ll be sure to refer them.
Jimmy: So, you’ve learned not to vet your own projects. You’re gonna leave that to the open market. Just if anybody in your community has any type of project, you’ll go ahead and list it in your project bank. Is that right?
Julie: Definitely. Yeah. We realized that we would do a disservice, especially because we have a lack of technical capacity right now to respond to Opportunity Zones. So, if we vet that, we may be limiting that person or that project when in actuality with more technical expertise, they could pull it off.
Jimmy: And what types of projects do you see coming into your project bank? What type of projects does your community want built?
Julie: Well, the projects vary. For instance, in downtown Port Angeles, there’s a Tribeca of projects and it starts with a performing arts and conference center. And then right next door is a tribal longhouse and cultural center. And then right next door to that is a marine science center. And then very close in the vicinity is also a tribally-owned hotel and a 72-unit apartment complex. So, that’s all on the Port Angeles Waterfront, a very undeveloped waterfront right now. Over on the coast, the projects are a little different. Larry, you wanna talk about those?
Larry: Well, in LaPush with the Quileute tribe, we have several different projects that are underway and that had been underway for some time. The commercial fishing operations, of course, I mentioned are really critical to the economy here and the enhancements to the marina and especially to the ice plant, to enhance and build and increase the capacity of the ice manufacturing. That’s very critical to the commercial fishing operations. it’s a big, high-impact project here. Potentially, it makes difference between the success or failure of the commercial fishing operations. Difficulty with something like an ice plant is that it doesn’t make a lot of money by itself as a product produced. But the investment of $650,000 or $700,000 in an ice plant protects and enhances a $4 million fishing industry. So, that’s a core economic issue and project.
The tribe’s economy and economic projects also stem around the resort and some of the enhancements and expansion of the resort and some ancillary capacities there. But those are the things that are sort of economic development projects at the top of the list here. But we also have some community development projects as well. The tribe is located in a tsunami inundation zone and most of the lower villages in a very dangerous area related to tsunami. And so, we’re in the midst of a project that we call our Move to Higher Ground projects. In 2012, about 285 acres of land was transferred from the national park service to the tribe. That’s high ground area for a community development and really kind of an unprecedented action by Congress. And we’re in the process of master planning and development of that area for a new school and for tribal services of all sort and for housing.
And so, all of that, although the land was made available to the tribe, no money was associated with that from the federal government. So, we have challenges with raising funds for housing and other community development services that I know some are eligible for this Opportunity Zone funding, but it’s not clear exactly how that can all move forward. We did receive funding for the school construction, for a new school. We’ve received a grant of $46 million to build a new school. So, that was a big step forward. But we still have a lot of needs for the rest of the community development as we move the whole village out of the tsunami zone on to higher ground.
Jimmy: Right. A lot of need for more development, more revitalization there, and you’re hoping that the Opportunity Zones program can incentivize some private capital to flow into your communities. What types of investors are you attracting so far, is the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone attracting so far?
Julie: Well, I’m getting calls from mission investors and impact investors and then some investors that, from the greater Seattle area, that really just wanna know what is happening out in rural Opportunity Zones. And a lot of them have actually made the time to come out and see us for themselves. We’ve had several bus tours where we’ve taken investors directly to our Opportunity Zones and all of the Opportunity Zones stakeholders. We get on that bus with those investors so they can take a look and talk to us and get to know us and what investors are telling me is that they really want to invest in rural Opportunity Zones but they need help finding us. And that is one thing I’ve heard over and over again is, “How do we find you?” And, you know, there’s a lot of websites with Opportunity Zone projects on them and everything, but still that connection, we’re still working on.
Jimmy: Yeah. Absolutely. And is your intention to create your own qualified opportunity fund or are you gonna leave that to other investors to come in or other developers and maybe, Rod, maybe I can pull you back in. You can address this question.
Rod: Well, I think that is one of the underlying questions. I’m one of these folks who has a strong belief that if we are engaged at all elements of the effort, we will benefit directly and indirectly from that. The challenge is understanding what the requirements are, the rules and the structures for such opportunity funds. That’s, I would joke when we say a few pay grades above my capability. So, I would love to hear from folks interested in how these opportunity funds are created, managed, and structured.
I think there’s some talk about, “Well, let’s just wait to see who shows up and help us.” I’m gonna just point that the last 15, 20-year track record on that isn’t all that great for rural America. So, I think we can be in charge of our own destiny by seizing that opportunity. And then also some models folks are talking about, “Well, let’s create something where everybody just pays to get into it and then pays to have their project listed and all whatnot.” I’m not a big fan of that one. I kinda feel that if we create a list of projects that will grab attention, that attention will grab interest and that interest will grab focus and movement.
And so, I feel that’s a more equitable approach to dealing with some of the projects in rural America. And some of the projects aren’t gonna have a 15%, 20%, 30% return on investment. Some of these projects that we’re talking about may only have a 3% to 5% return. And if we could create a fund that has a social equity element to it, where we have maybe the higher real estate investment and in local housing that has that better return and then the lower return on investment that might be associated with the tribal ice house, and the average is 5% to 7% in total for the fund, that seems to me to be something both doable and rewarding.
Jimmy: Yeah. You get to the 5% to 7% range then that’s starting to become more of a real return you’re getting there. So, I guess like the only question is the question you’re struggling with now is whether you need to form the qualified Opportunity Zone fund yourself and you admitted that’s a little bit over your head in terms of how to do that. Or you have to wait for someone else to do it but if you build it, there will come strategy. Sounds like it hasn’t panned out for your community over the last several years or decades even.
Rod: Well, I think it’s more of the, if we’re interested, they’ll come and help us and they’ll be able to do X, Y, and Z. And it’s like, well, they might be interested but they may not be able to do all these things that you’re expecting. So, you know, let’s seize control of our destiny a little bit more. We did it with the creation of the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone. We’ve done it, you know, we’re trying to understand and work together as a community. So, there may be some value in saying, “Let’s understand what this next step is.” And one of the challenges there is we’re pretty remote and some of the, you know, banking institutions and the investing institutions are not necessarily out in Forks or LaPush, I don’t understand why, but they’re in these much bigger places like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and, you know, so we need to find ways and hopefully this podcast or maybe some folks, “Hey, that’s an interesting idea,” where we can bridge that gap, that element of this program that I think a few of the rural communities are struggling with understanding the best way to do this.
Larry: And I think you need to also look at the way that, for example, here at the Quileute tribe, the way that projects have been funded historically and what opportunities have been on the Olympic Peninsula without and before this Opportunity Zone impact. There are several sources of money that a small tribe like the Quileute tribe has had opportunity to tap into. Grants from the federal government has been one major element through things like the Indian Community Development Block Grant Program through HUD, USDA funds for grants, or some small grants for planning. And then the USDA guaranteed loan programs are our one source of funds that have been tapped. And there are three CDFIs that are on the Olympic Peninsula that do provide competitive interest rates for loans.
But frankly, many of the small tribes don’t necessarily tend to opt for loans just because of the uncertainty in some of the economies and the question about paying those things back over time even if the money is very attractive and in the loans setting. I also work here with the Quileute tribe as a grant writer and we’ve had a great deal of success at writing grants but those are all also very, very limited in terms of how they can be applied and very few grants available for construction, for example. So, those are one of the aspects of the way that tribes are sort of used to getting money. And this kind of financial instrument that expects connections to high dollar or outside investors that come from financial institutions that are outside of this region is a different animal for the tribe. It’s not something that they’re technically connected to and it raises some serious challenges.
Rod: I was gonna say, I think Larry really has hit on one thing in that Julie and I have found ourselves since the inception of our efforts and Maya talking about this in January and when she came on board as the EDC interim director on like the first part of February, explained that this is an investor driven program. This is not a grant. This is not a government program. This is an investor driven program, then an investor has to have a rate of return. Now, you might have a social equity investor who says, “Hey, I want my rate of return to be 2% but I also want it to help women in poverty. I want it to help with housing issues and I want it to help raise awareness of these issues.” Okay, we can make that happen, but it’s different because it’s investor-driven and that has been a challenge, Julie, I would say we have faced since day one.
Julie: Yup. I would say that’s true, Rod.
Jimmy: Yeah. Since you can point that out. This is a different animal as Larry alluded to, attracting private capital through Opportunity Zones. It’s just one of many tools that can help get these projects off the ground along with CDFI loans, along with federal government subsidies and grants from numerous other federal programs. But yeah, the Opportunity Zones program, it’s just much different and it’s more difficult to kind of get your arms around when you’re first starting out. It’s not a grant, it’s not a loan. It’s not a subsidy. It’s private capital investor driven. You’re absolutely right. And most of these investors are gonna be looking for a return. What have been some of the other big challenges or frustrations with the Opportunity Zone program so far?
Julie: I would say, for me, a lot of people listen to media, Forbes, and other really big newspapers, magazines, and when there’s doubt cast about Opportunity Zones, we pay attention to them whether or not we really know if it applies to a rural opportunity zone or an urban opportunity zone. And the two conversations are very…they’re similar, but they’re very different. And so, a lot of the comments that you see nationally are more, I would say, focused on…are concerned of urban opportunity zone. And so, you know, things like gentrification, concerns and things like that. We don’t speak a lot of that around here. So, that’s one of the examples I can give you.
Jimmy: Yeah. Gentrification and resident displacement isn’t really a concern in a rural setting like where you’re investing or where you are hoping to attract investors.
Julie: Right. So, when doubt is cast like that, then we need to be able to defend them, and that requires capacity. And that’s something that we could use some help with.
Larry: Yeah. There’s another technical aspect that I think is important and that is the understanding of what kind of prospectuses is expected, what kind of proposals will be examined and which ones will simply go in the trash. We don’t have a lot of experience and capacity in here to deal with those kind of financial presentations except in grant projects which are presented in a very specific way or narrowly when you write a grant but it may not meet the needs or expectations of the investors who are looking for a prospectus related to the project.
Rod: I also think that part of that language barrier is the folks interested in pursuing Opportunity Zones also will have to deal with folks asking some very technical detailed questions from their peers at the regional level and if we don’t have an instant answer, you know, enter the Internet and that information may not be accurate. You know, we’ve been very blessed, podcasts like yourself, EIG and others have been putting out some really good solid information that we’ve been able to…could walk into someone and say, “Well, wait a sec, here’s actually the source. Here’s something you need to look at or listen to that will help explain that point.” We’ve also been talking and hoping to pursue, in the fall, some education opportunities with accountants and lawyers and trust advisors, estate planners in the region and in the state to get them aware of the potential of this tool for their client or potential clients. That would then have the ability to help bridge some of these discussions much better.
Jimmy: Yeah, I think that’s a great idea there. Do some seminars or some learning opportunities in the fall, I would encourage you to do so. You brought up EIG as one of the educational leaders, you’re absolutely right. And Julie, you were a panelist on EIG’s Opportunity Zones webinar a few weeks ago. Can you share any insights from that? And what did you have to say and what did the other panelists say? And did you receive any comments or questions from any of the audience members?
Julie: Yes. We had the privilege of being… Washington State was selected to participate on the EIG panel and that’s the economic innovation group, which is a think tank out of Washington, D.C. And we, as an Emerald Coast leader, I had actually been pursuing Rachel Riley there because of her interest in rural investments. And it turns out the State Department of Commerce was doing the same thing and so was the National Development Council here in Washington State. So, we were all trying to make a relationship with them so that we could be heard as far as our rural needs and our…and especially rural and especially tribal and our partnerships. So, this is a third in their webinar series and basically it’s the rural and tribal communities are working with state officials and we identified our local priorities and how we plan to bring our investments, our visions to life. And we also participated with the Northstar Opportunity Zone and some others because we have some very strong relationships between not only our Opportunity Zone but others in Washington State, and we get a lot of support for that. So, being on this EIG webinar meant that, you know, we have a national voice right now and we are trying to share what we know. So, we were very privileged to be able to speak with them and that was just…I think that will be recorded and available in the future.
Jimmy: Good. Now, I’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes for this episode. Getting toward the end of our conversation here with the four of us here, I just wanted to give each one of you a last chance to convey to our listeners any type of message that you want them to take away from our conversation today. And Larry, I’ll go ahead and start with you.
Larry: Well, I think that the biggest issue here is to understand that although we’re a very rural and remote area and we have components to our economy that are growing, things have been up and down over the last decade or longer. But there are good things happening here. We have a lot of really… Excellent development process is underway and some opportunities that exist, I think, for people who are interested in investments that will have a high impact. This area is a challenge to develop things into and to work around. And so, every dollar that gets invested out here has a significant impact in the community of where investments in some regions might be lost in the clutter. Out here on the west end of the Olympic Peninsula, any project that moves forward with success has a high impact on the local community and the local economy.
Jimmy: Good. And Rod, do you have a final thought you’d like to share?
Rod: Well, I’ll just follow up quickly on that. If you wanna make a difference as an investor and you wanna have that…be a difference that benefits you, but also that benefits those around you with your investment, rural Washington and ECOZ is the place to make that investment. And in doing so, you’ll help us address those issues of poverty, unemployment, and wage gaps. So, you know, it’s an opportunity to come out and be a part of a community and be a significant contributor to that change element.
Jimmy: Good. And Julie, I’ll let you get the last word in here.
Julie: Oh, thank you. I would say that tribal partnerships need far more exploration and we intend to go in that direction as well. And in a few weeks or maybe a month or so, if you take a look at the Sorenson Impact Center, they have a catalyst competition for innovation in Opportunity Zones, and the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone and the Northstar Opportunity Zone participated in a catalyst competition video, six sovereign nations, cities, and citizens were interviewed for this video and you’ll be able to see more about our work and the work that we’re sharing with the nation and we hope to keep that up.
Jimmy: Good. Well, the three of you, Julie, Rod, and Larry, it’s been great speaking with you today. I appreciate our conversation. Can one of you chime in right now and just tell us where our listeners can go to learn more about the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone.
Jimmy: That’s me. We have a website called emeraldfunds.org. You can also catch us on Twitter @ecozwa, that’s E-C-O-Z-W-A. And then personally you can get ahold of me @julieknottnw. That’s @julieknottnw.
Rod: And for me at the city of Forks, just contact us at the City of Forks, forkswashington.org, spell out Washington as one, forkswashington and spell out Washington. And you can find us there or get, you know, find us through Julie.
Larry: The Quileute tribe maintains a website at quileutenation.org and that has links to pretty much all aspects of the community, and the government, and links to the tribal school and other entities here. It’s pretty easy to find information about the Quileute tribe. It gets a lot of attention on the Internet and has for the work we’re doing on the Move to Higher Ground project and the impact of the “Twilight” novel series.
Jimmy: That’s right, you guys kinda came into public consciousness when those books and those movies came out because it featured the Quileute tribe. Good. Well, for all our listeners out there, I’ll have show notes on the Opportunity Zones database website for this episode. You can find those show notes at opportunitydb.com/podcast and you’ll find links to all of the resources that Julie, Rod, Larry, and I discussed on today’s show. I’ll have links to ECOZ, the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone project. I’ll also have links to the Quileute tribal nation and City of Forks, Washington, as well as a couple of the other resources we discussed, the Sorenson Impact Center and the EIG Webinar that featured Julie a few weeks ago. Julie, Rod, Larry, thanks again for your time. I appreciate it. It’s been fun.
Larry: Thank you.
Rod: Thanks for the opportunity.
Julie: Thank you so much.
Jimmy: And I wish you the best of luck with getting your projects funded in the future. Thank you.
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