The Evolution of the OZ Marketplace, with Peter Truog

Peter Truog

How has the Opportunity Zone marketplace evolved over the past 2+ years and how will it continue to evolve going forward?

Peter Truog is founder of The Opportunity Exchange, a marketplace that connects impactful Opportunity Zone projects to capital sources. The Opportunity Exchange is a key partner in OZ Pitch Day.

Click the play button below to listen to my conversation with Peter.

Episode Highlights

  • How the Opportunity Zone marketplace has evolved over the past couple of years.
  • The many ways in which The Opportunity Exchange supports communities and facilitates the OZ marketplace.
  • The evolution of how communities are approaching the challenge of attracting Opportunity Zone capital, and what role the public sector has to play.
  • The importance of a community prospectus and portal in terms of attracting capital for community economic development.
  • How the OZ marketplace may continue to evolve over the coming years.
  • A recap of OZ Pitch Day 2020 and a look ahead to OZ Pitch Day 2021, coming on March 9th.

Featured on This Episode

Industry Spotlight: The Opportunity Exchange

The Opportunity Exchange

The Opportunity Exchange builds community & economic development software that helps community leaders ideate, develop, and build more inclusive communities. A portion of their work focuses on helping communities connect Opportunity Zone investors to impactful projects in their city, county, or state.

Learn more about The Opportunity Exchange:

About the Opportunity Zones Podcast

Hosted by founder Jimmy Atkinson, the Opportunity Zones Podcast features guest interviews from fund managers, advisors, policymakers, tax professionals, and other foremost experts in opportunity zones.

Show Transcript

Jimmy: Welcome to the “Opportunity Zones Podcast.” I’m your host, Jimmy Atkinson. Last November, I hosted OZ Pitch Day 2020. And a key partner for that event was and continues to be The Opportunity Exchange. The Opportunity Exchange is an OZ marketplace that builds community and economic development software that helps community leaders ideate, develop, and build more inclusive communities. A portion of The Opportunity Exchange’s work focuses on helping communities connect Opportunity Zone investors to impactful projects in their city, county, or state. And that work is much of what we’ll be discussing today. Joining me today is the founder of The Opportunity Exchange, Peter Truog. And Peter joins us from Cleveland, Ohio. Peter, it’s great to have you back on the podcast. Welcome.

Peter: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Jimmy. Glad to be back on.

Jimmy: Yeah, you bet. So I do want to recap OZ Pitch Day 2020 with you, Peter, and all of the work that you and your team at The Opportunity Exchange did to make that a great event and to add a lot of value for some of the fund issuers who participated in that event. I’ll get to that a little bit later in the episode today. But first, for those who may not be aware, you were a guest on this podcast way back in November 2019, over a year ago now, when The Opportunity Exchange was just getting started. You guys were just a few months old then at that point. So, to start us off today, to get the conversation rolling, Peter, can you just give me and our listeners a high level update on how The Opportunity Exchange has evolved since our last interview? And maybe you can give an update on the OZ marketplace as a whole as well.

Peter: Yeah, absolutely. I’m happy to kick things off in that fashion. And, you know, it’s really quite an experience being back on the podcast again. When we were last on we were, as you mentioned, just in the very early stages. We had been working on The Opportunity Exchange for just less than a year at that point. And so now coming back on, you know, almost a year and a half later, it’s interesting as I was thinking about some of the things to talk about on the podcast to reflect a little bit on what we’ve learned since we were last on and think about what to share. So, for the folks who maybe are encountering us for the first time or not familiar with our work, my name is Peter. I’m the co-founder of The Opportunity Exchange. We build software that helps community leaders ideate, develop, and create impactful projects in their community.

And as Jimmy mentioned, a major focus of our work to date has been around supporting communities as they think about initiating kind of proactive strategies to capture opportunities with regard to the Opportunity Zone incentives. Where we started as a company was very much focused on the idea of facilitating a marketplace to help community sponsored projects, community aligned projects, better connect with Opportunity Zone capital. My background in community economic development along with my co-founder’s background in government technology really led us to this point of departure where, collectively, we saw just a lack of tools available to municipalities, counties, states that would enable them to more proactively and more in real time build an inventory of potential OZ projects and kind of get the word out about those and to facilitate connections with those projects with this new investor class that the Opportunity Zone incentive created.

And so that’s where we started, was really on supporting the kind of community aligned side of the OZ market, specifically by working with cities, counties, and states to help them stand up a digital community marketplace via which Opportunity Zone investors could connect to deals in their community. That was really where we were focused when we were last on the pod in November of 2019. We, at the time, were working with between, you know, 5 to 10 different states and cities, helping them kind of get these early building blocks in place with Opportunity Zone strategy.

In the intervening, I guess, 14 months or so, a lot has happened. You know, the pandemic aside, there has been just massive change in terms of I think the level of understanding around the Opportunity Zone incentive. And some of the strategies that particularly communities are deploying to try to capture the benefits from that incentive. Two things that we’ve seen which we can go into more detail over the course of this conversation are, one, I think our recognition that while, you know, this marketplace idea, this need to really be thoughtful about the connectivity of projects to capital, it’s certainly one of the needs that exists in this space.

There’s been a growing recognition and I think identification of other needs that also exist perhaps earlier in the process before a given fund or before a given project might present to an investor, that would be really impactful for communities to be able to take advantage of as they think about shepherding deals on their way to market. And so we’ve really been focused on not only understanding what some of the other pain points are in the process for community and economic developers or project sponsors as they take deals to market, but beginning to address some of those needs as well. I think the other theme that we’ve seen is not only this need for kind of a deeper toolkit, if you will, a deeper ecosystem of tools that communities and sponsors can avail themselves of, but also a growing, I guess, exploration on the part of particularly cities and counties around how this incentive will fit into sort of longer-term community and economic development strategy that community may be pursuing.

A lot of what we saw initially was a number of sort of very discrete Opportunity Zone focused efforts that were, you know, laser targeted on trying to develop a strategy for a given city to take advantage of the OZ incentive. What we’re seeing now is a recognition that in the longer-term, those approaches, which initially started as very OZ-centric will need to be integrated into the longer-term sort of economic and community development vision for communities in order to be sustaining. And so we’re seeing a lot of places begin to experiment with how best to do so. And to integrate some of the learnings and support that they’ve developed OZs over the course of the past two years into their work more generally. I’m happy to go into more detail and talk about this kind of more generally. But those are two of the big themes that we’ve been discovering over the course of the past year in the work that we do. And also that we’ve been working on a bit as well to begin to address some of those needs that have arisen.

Jimmy: Yeah, that’s great, Peter. I actually would like to drill down into those points here in a moment. As a listener, if you’ve been listening to this podcast over the last few weeks, you know, recently I had Steve Glickman and Ira Weinstein on the show a short while back, and throughout the course of that show, we had identified several groups of key stakeholders in the Opportunity Zone ecosystem. And, you know, what I love about what you’ve done, Peter, is The Opportunity Exchange really attempts to bring all of those different types of stakeholders together to see the different types of deals and to match capital with those deals. Those stakeholders that you go after, specifically, are the Opportunity Zone investors themselves, the real estate developers, and deal sponsors. I believe you have some business deals listed on the website as well.

And of course, the keystone to make all of this happen are the Opportunity Zone communities and community leaders themselves. So, yeah, could you drill down into those two points you brought up, the growing recognition of needs that exist for communities? What can communities do? What are some of the best practices you’ve seen? And I think the other point that you made was about tools and layering other tools into Opportunity Zones. Tell us more about that as well.

Peter: Yeah. Well, thanks, Jimmy, for so succinctly summarizing the different folks who engage with the Opportunity Zone. You’re absolutely right, with The Opportunity Exchange, you’re absolutely right. Those are kind of the three parties that we’ve built the platform around. With the thesis being, you know, the transparency and connectivity of those groups, the greater that we can help facilitate interactions between those parties, the more we’ll be able to unlock the community aligned outcomes that this incentive was really designed to try to help facilitate.

As a company, like you were saying, we focus primarily on building tools to help enable those community leaders to really build that ecosystem in their community and enable better connectivity from the other two parties you described between investors and deal sponsors. And so, I’ll talk a little bit about some of the evolution that we’ve seen in terms of how communities are thinking about approaching that challenge from an OZ perspective, and then share a couple of reflections on how we’re starting to see that bleed over into other types of work they do beyond OZ.

But starting with Opportunity Zone, specifically, you know, I think the journey has been winding for communities as they’ve thought about, you know, the role that they can play here. As folks listening will well now, you know, it’s not necessarily clear when, upon first glance, what role the public sector has to play in shaping the Opportunity Zone market in general, right? Investors can come together with project sponsors and make deals independent of public involvement. And it’s not like other community economic development sort of incentives or programs like new markets where there’s a need for public sector involvement. Opportunity Zone incentive can happen entirely within the private market. And so, initially, a lot of communities were saying, “Well, what role is there for us to play here in shaping how these fields might unfold in our community?”

And right from the beginning, we saw a handful of approaches begin to emerge. You know, a lot of communities perhaps began their work by building a community perspective. This was something that was pioneered in a few places, the Accelerator for America put out a really helpful template for communities in terms of thinking through how to do this. And this was one approach that communities took right off the bat to try to introduce themselves to investors in a way that was really compelling and kind of market forward. Building on the community perspective’s idea that a lot of communities sort of initiated the Opportunity Zone work with, we saw a number of communities then begin to stand up ways to showcase, in real time, deals that they wanted investors to be looking at in their community. This was a key way that we started as a company working with cities and states by helping them to stand up these portals.

But over the course of the past 12 months or so, we really saw an evolution in terms of what those needs look like. While there was a lot of really promising progress that was made when it came to beginning to more proactively build these pipelines and communities, it was really clear that more tools would be needed to help projects advance along the sort of project development process so that they could ultimately be more competitive when they went to market. And so some of those tools that have come up have been things like, a lot of the projects that we see our community partners working with oftentimes begin the process maybe at an earlier stage of project development.

And, you know, building a pro forma for their deal is something that can be quite challenging for them, or perhaps they’ve never put together sort of a one-page tear sheet for their project that they can use to pitch an investor. And so we’ve been thinking about ways to really deepen the suite of tools that we can provide the sponsors along that process so that as they navigate their path to market, they have a continuum of resources available at their disposal that they can avail themselves of along the way.

The second way that we’re working on trying to make this more repeatable for communities is thinking about ways to have those resources be more available, more visible, more readily accessible, and more standardized so that, from the municipality side of things, as they think about scaling this process and supporting more and more and more sponsors through this work, you know, they’re able to do so in a way that doesn’t demand a one for one increase in their time and capacity or resources as they think about ways to more deeply support sponsors in their community.

And so I think this has been a really common theme that we’ve seen over the course of, you know, the past six months, especially as it became clear that the first step for a community was often to stand up a marketplace to showcase deals, and then really became apparent that things like providing this more deep technical assistance around deal structuring or deal financials, or kind of legal and accounting implications for specific projects, those needs really emerged. And I think we’re seeing communities begin to challenge themselves more and more around, you know, how do we make those resources available to OZ projects in our community. I think, and I’m sure, you know, a lot of the work that you’ve done, Jimmy, through this pod and like the folks that have engaged in this community you’ve built has really been, I think, really critical to making that happen.

Perhaps 12 months ago or when we were first on in 2019, it wasn’t necessarily even a level of familiarity with the OZ incentive generally to enable folks to get to the second order questions around, “Okay, I know this is something I’m interested in. How do I make it work?” But we’re consistently starting to see those next level questions or sort of more deeper questions around perhaps specifics of applying the incentive to a given project rather than what is the Opportunity Zone incentive in the first place. More and more become things that we’re commonly seeing on behalf of communities. That’s a bit about what we’ve been observing around sort of the evolving way that we’re seeing communities wade into this Opportunity Zone landscape writ large.

Jimmy: Yeah. That’s great, Peter. Excellent observations overall. You know, I don’t disagree with anything you said. And it is nice to see how the ecosystem has evolved the way that it has over the last year or two in that, yeah, people aren’t, you know, the key stakeholders are no longer asking, “Okay, what is this program?” They’re diving deeper into the questions. Of course, you do still have new investors, new people getting turned on to the program every day who need that basic one-on-one intro to what Opportunity Zones are. But for the most part, at least the key stakeholders, the fund issuers, the deal sponsors themselves, the communities themselves have a pretty firm grasp of the program now. How do you expect the marketplace and The Opportunity Exchange in particular to continue to evolve over the next few months or throughout the course of this year?

Peter: Yeah, absolutely. Very pertinent question as we’re sort of in the early part of 2021, thinking about, you know, what are our goals and objectives for this year is something we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about over the course of the past couple months. You know, I’d be remiss, I know that there’s such a big focus on this podcast to kind of providing actionable resources and information. So I realized I alluded to a lot of tools and resources that are out there in my sort of previous comment and just want to be specific about, so, for folks who are listening, how they can access some of them. And then it will be very clear, I think, as I’ll share those, and then kind of can use that as a stepping stone into where we’re headed next, and how all these things come together.

But I laid out a couple of specific pain points that communities and sponsors face going through this process and just want to be forthright in directing folks to resources that are out there to be helpful. One is, I mentioned the aspiration for many communities to put together a community perspective or a community kind of marketing profile. I alluded to or mentioned the Accelerator for America’s template for how to do so. That’s a great place to get started. We’ve also partnered with Opportunity Alabama to build a community profile building tool that can really help facilitate the process of kind of digitized community perspective building as a way to help make that work more maintainable, visible, and scalable across, you know, neighborhoods in your city or counties in your state.

The second thing I alluded to that I wanted to mention was the pro forma development as a challenge that many sponsors face, or as something that a lot of community development officials kind of regularly encounter in their work, but maybe don’t always feel fully equipped with how to answer questions around, you know, what does the return profile look like for this deal and what assumptions were made in terms of thinking about how that return profile was generated? The Governance Project created a really helpful tool called GroundUp, which sort of is like the TurboTax for pro forma modeling. It walks folks through a step by step process to build a pro forma for a particular real estate deal or you can access it at It’s free to access there. But I encourage folks who are curious about that to go and check that out.

Finally, I think there was a big interest by a number of communities and sponsors around community impact. Jimmy, it’s something that you highlighted right off the beginning as something that’s kind of core to the vision of Opportunity Zones. A really helpful tool in terms of thinking through some of those questions around how certain projects may deliver benefit to the communities in which they’re in. The Urban Institute built a really useful Community Impact Assessment Tool, which I recommend folks to check out. We’ve partnered with them and are integrating that into The Opportunity Exchange so folks who have projects on the platform can immediately avail themselves of the ability to use that scorecard as well as the pro forma tool that I mentioned.

And so, just wanted to really help folks who are thinking through some of these questions themselves, ensure that that’s providing kind of direct resources and links and things for you all to go check it out as you listen, in case any of these pain points are particularly germane to your work. In terms of how this all comes together, and then I think where we see sort of this market heading is, one, a continued desire to explore and add tools to this project development toolkit in the first place.

So I think if there are folks who are listening who have ideas or who have stories that would be about your experience kind of navigating the OZ project development process, either from the community perspective, or project sponsor perspective, or an investor or fund perspective, I would love to have a conversation with you to continue to understand sort of what other needs might exist and how can we be helpful in helping solve those pain points.

I think the other thing that we commonly observed is, and this alludes to something I brought up earlier, we’re seeing an expansion in terms of the way that communities think about integrating Opportunities Zone into their community economic development strategies. So, if I take a specific project, for example, a lot of times the process that will happen will be maybe the sponsor wants to build a mixed use space with some commercial space on the first floor or perhaps some market rate and affordable housing units above, they’ll go through the process to begin to structure, you know, “Okay, what is the kind of market study look like that will support the viability of this deal? How do we think the financials might come together?” They’ll begin to engage with one of the cities or municipalities that we work with via The Opportunity Exchange.

And over the course of that work, we often see kind of the realization that, you know, this might be a really viable and great project. But for any number of reasons, maybe Opportunity Zones might not be exactly the right tool in this instance. One of the things that we see happening more and more often is then communities being proactive and saying, you know, “Okay, that’s all right. There’s other tools that are out there. Let’s be thoughtful in terms of how we can connect you to other sources of capital that might be more appropriate for the type of project that you’re working on.”

And that last step is something that I think will be really critical to watch in the coming 12 months as we think about sort of the longer-term integration of some of this OZ work into how communities approach community economic development from on a more regular basis because it will really signal the integration of a cohesive sort of network where, you know, any project that’s going through the development process and need some assistance from the public sector, will be able to enter into this ecosystem and not only access the continuum of tools that will be able to help it kind of navigate any step in the process.

But once they start to think about that capital attraction step, there’ll be sort of this more accessible and more built-out menu of options, if you will. In the case where, you know, Opportunity Zones is the right choice for a project, great. There’s been a lot of investment on behalf of everybody who’s probably listening and helping to build that ecosystem over the course of the past couple of years. But thinking about connectivity to other sources of capital is a big thing that we anticipate being more and more important for folks as they kind of integrate this work into their ongoing operations from the community economic development side of things.

From our perspective, that’s something that we’re really focused on. We began working with a couple of different CDFIs across the country. We’re working with the list office in Detroit, as well as a group in Alabama called Neighborhood Concepts to help them build out more sort of digitized application intake review mechanisms for managing the work of their loan funds within their CDFI. And for us, this is one way to begin to wade into that sort of capital connectivity piece that I was just alluding to, to begin to provide a wider array of options for sponsors who are using The Opportunity Exchange to help bring their deal to market so that there’s a greater connectivity for them as they think about, “All right. Well, who should I be talking to when it comes to thinking about how the financing for this project might work?”

Jimmy: Yeah, tremendous, Peter. A lot to unpack there. A lot of great resources that you rattled off. For listeners out there today, I will have show notes for this episode at And I’ll be sure to link to all of those resources on this episode show notes page, the resources that Peter just mentioned. A lot of great online tools there. And it’s important to be able to take advantage of these tools. I mean, so far, you know, in the first couple plus years of the program, tens of billions of dollars have been raised by Opportunity Zone funds and there’s still a lot of money left to be raised out there over the life of this program over the next several years, until we run up to the end date year-end 2026 as it stands right now.

A couple other tools that I want to mention, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them are, one is a community platform that we just launched from is OZworks Group. That community can be accessed at And the goal there is for us to put together all of these different stakeholders into one platform where they can really interact and meet. And we’ve already had several success stories come out of that in the early days there. So I encourage you to check out when you get a moment. And then, you know, I also have…and we’ll be talking about OZ Pitch Day 2020 here in a minute, Peter, but also wanted to mention the fact that I’m doing another OZ Pitch Day event in March coming up pretty soon here. So, you can check out what’s on tap for that event by heading to

And we’re gonna have more funds present their different investment options for you investors out there who may be running up against a March 31 deadline. That’s the deadline that was extended by the IRS back in January, on January 19th they extended out that deadline once again. So if you missed the old December 31, 2020 deadline, you now have until the end of March of this year, 2021, to still rollover capital gains that may have been accrued along certain timeframes going back as far as 2019 in some cases. So that’s a couple of plugs I wanted to make sure that I got in there, Peter.

Jimmy: Yeah. No, it’s really exciting. I’ve been following along with OZworks work as it’s been merging. And I think it really fits into a lot of the same themes that we’ve been talking about over the course of this podcast, you know, having a deep set of resources and tools and advice for folks to be able to avail themselves of as they consider how Opportunity Zones might fit with their work. And to make that advice really accessible on a regular basis for folks, I think, it’s really exciting what you’re what you’re putting together and I’m eager to continue to follow along and help out as we can.

Jimmy: Yeah. Well, thanks for that, Peter, thanks for your support so far on that endeavor. I appreciate it. I did want to kind of wrap things up here by recapping the OZ Pitch Day that we partnered on back in November of 2020. It took place on November 17th of last year, 2020. For those who are unaware, it was a one day all day Opportunity Zone pitch fest, essentially, hosted by OpportunityDb. And I partnered with Peter and his team at The Opportunity Exchange to help put it on. And just to briefly recap it, we did have 12 different qualified Opportunity Funds pitch their different investments throughout the course of the day. We had over 1,200 investors register for the event. And I believe we had close to 500 of them attend that live online event throughout the course of the day on November 17th. And many more who have watched the recording of the event since then, it was really incredible to see the way that it all came together. And I’ve gotten great feedback from those who had attended the event.

I sent out a survey shortly after the event asking people, “Hey, how did you like it? You know, what did you think? And are you actually going to invest in a qualified Opportunity Fund?” And you know, one of my favorite questions that I got responses to from that survey is, I asked, “Did this event, did OZ Pitch Day improve your likelihood of investing in a qualified Opportunity Fund?” And I was blown away by the fact that 83% of the respondents said yes. And I have heard, anecdotally, I don’t collect hard data on this, but anecdotally, I’ve heard from several, multiple of the qualified opportunity funds that presented that day that they did raise capital as a direct result of being involved with that event. You know, millions and millions of dollars were raised from investors who were pitched to on that day.

So, that was great to hear that it was successful both for the investors who attended and for the fund managers who pitched during the course of the event. So, Peter, turning to you now, I wanted to ask you if you could tell our listeners what The Opportunity Exchange did for three of the presenting qualified Opportunity Fund partners on the event, Urban Catalyst, USG/OZI’s Investors Choice OZ Fund, and Origin Investments. I know that you got involved with those three funds to build out their listings on your marketplace. Can you go into a little bit more detail there about what you’ve done?

Peter: Yeah, absolutely, Jimmy. It’s awesome to hear some of the updates and enthusiasm that was shared back about the events. From the way that we were involved, as we mentioned before, one of the kind of key folks that engages with The Opportunity Exchange is this investor and fund base that we have. And so, when Jimmy approached us about his ideas for a Pitch Day and how he thought the event could come together, it was sort of a natural fit for us to figure out how to work together to make the event successful. What we’ve done is put together three fund portfolios for the three funds that Jimmy mentioned, Origin Investments, USG/OZI Investors Choice, and Urban Catalysts. You can find those at If you’re curious to see, you can go there.

I’d encourage everybody who’s listening, you know, visit the podcast notes, go to the URL I just mentioned. You’ll be able to see the three different funds that we’ve set up. And you can look at the different projects that are going to be part of those different funds. You can understand a little bit about what the vision for the fund is, and then, you know, reach out and get connected to those groups. I’d encourage folks who are curious to learn more, to visit those different profiles and get connected. This was a really exciting event, I think, in general because of its focus on really providing a dedicated venue to help facilitate, you know, not only the sort of information sharing, you know, to your point, Jimmy, the fact that folks are saying, “Hey, this made me more likely to engage with this incentive in general,” is an awesome outcome. And I think it’s testament to the sort of continued learning and continued ecosystem building work that everybody in this OpportunityDb ecosystem is committed to doing.

And it was also really special because of the amount of space that was given to the different funds who were pitching at the event to really be able to go into detail about kind of their vision and the work that they were hoping to do. It was a really unique event from our perspective. And, yeah, we were really excited to be able to help out, you know, bringing some investors to the event and then also showcasing these fund profiles here over the course of the coming month. Again, the place to go to check them out is You’ll see the three portfolios for the different funds that we mentioned. Oregon Investments, Urban Catalysts, and USG/OZI Investors Choice. You can click on them, see some of the deals that they’re working on. And I encourage folks to reach out and connect through some of those profiles to learn more.

Jimmy: Yeah, fantastic. And thank you once again, Peter, for partnering with me on OZ Pitch Day and partnering with those three qualified opportunity funds in order to get their portfolios up on your website. It’s tremendous. And, again, just to reiterate what I said before, really pleased with how the first OZ Pitch Day went last November. And again, for those who may have missed that event or for those who liked it and want to do it again, I am doing another one. I am planning on doing multiple OZ Pitch Day events throughout the course of this year.

And the first one for this year is coming up on March 9th. And you can learn more about that at It’s positioned such that it is a few weeks before that March 31 deadline that many investors are facing. So, the idea being attend OZ Pitch Day, learn about several different Qualified Opportunity Funds, and maybe you’ll find one you like and you can place your capital gains into one of those funds before that deadline arrives.

For our listeners out there today, as I mentioned before, I always produce show notes on the Opportunity Zones database website where you can learn more about today’s episode. You can find those show notes at And there you will find links to all of the resources that Peter and I discussed on today’s show. Peter, again, thanks for coming on the show today. It’s been a pleasure.

Peter: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me, Jimmy. I look forward to coming on again in 18 months from now and talking about what more we’ve learned. Thanks so much for the opportunity to share our thoughts with you today.

Jimmy: Awesome. Thank you, Peter.


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