Navigating The Opportunity Zones Industry

It’s Year 6 of Opportunity Zones. The marketplace has matured a lot over the years. Industry best practices are still being formed, but more or less have reached a point of stability.

Ashley Tison of OZPros and Chris Cooley of OZworks Group join Jimmy Atkinson of OZ Insiders on this LIVE edition of The Opportunity Zones Podcast to discuss three membership groups that serve the Opportunity Zones industry.

Episode Highlights

  • Backgrounds on Ashley, Chris, and Jimmy, and how each came to work in the Opportunity Zones industry.
  • The current state of the Opportunity Zones industry at the start of 2024.
  • Reasons for optimism in 2024 after a down year for Opportunity Zone fundraising in 2023.
  • The segments of the Opportunity Zones market that OZPros, OZworks Group, and OZ Insiders each serves.
  • Q&A from our livestream audience.

Guests: Ashley Tison, Chris Cooley, & Jimmy Atkinson

Also Featured On This Episode

About The Opportunity Zones Podcast

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

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Show Transcript

Jimmy: You’re listening to the “Opportunity Zones Podcast.” Get ready to grow your wealth with insights and strategies for Qualified Opportunity Fund investors. And now, here’s your host, Jimmy Atkinson.

Welcome to the “Opportunity Zones Podcast.” I’m Jimmy Atkinson, founder of OpportunityDb and OZ Insiders. It is year six of Opportunity Zones. Can you believe that? The marketplace has matured a lot over the years. Now, industry best practices, they’re still being formed, but more or less have reached a point of stability. And whether you’re a brand-new beginner to Opportunity Zones, or you’re a seasoned veteran, who’s been here since the early days, whether you’re an entrepreneur, or a real estate developer, or a project sponsor, or fund manager, and you’re looking at Opportunity Zones as a great way to raise equity from investors, or maybe you’re an investor, looking for deals to invest in, or perhaps you’re an Opportunity Zone professional, maybe an accountant, or an attorney, like Ashley here, we are here today to provide you with updates on the Opportunity Zones industry, and some tips for navigating the OZ industry, no matter which camp you may fall into.

My guests and I have developed membership groups for three different types of Opportunity Zone stakeholders, and I’m pleased to be joined today by Ashley Tison of OZPros and OZ Ascent, and also joining the show today is Chris Cooley of OZworks Group. Gentlemen, thanks for joining the show today. Really great to have both of you here.

Ashley: Well, it’s a pleasure to be here, as always, Jimmy. I love doing, whether it’s a recorded podcast, or certainly live, we’ve had some great times over the, literally, the six years that we’ve been doing this OZ thing. And so, it’s a honor and a privilege to be here today talking about, like, how the different groups are, how they’ve evolved, and kind of what they’re doing, and who they’re serving. So, super stoked about that. It’s always great to share the stage with you, and now with Chris Cooley too.

Chris: Yeah. I appreciate you guys…

Ashley: It’s good stuff.

Chris: …just letting me tag along, you know?

Jimmy: Good stuff. Good stuff, gentlemen. Well, to start us off, love to get a quick intro from each of you, and I’m gonna introduce myself as well, after you two. But Ashley, let’s start with you first. Who is Ashley Tison, how did you get into Opportunity Zones, and what is OZPros and your group, which is OZ Ascent?

Ashley: So, it’s funny because, you know, I met Jimmy back at the Las Vegas Opportunity Zone conference that they used to have, the…what do they call them? They call them… It wasn’t get-togethers. It was, like, the…

Jimmy: The OZ Expo.

Ashley: OZ Expo. That’s right. And I met Jimmy at the, you know, like, literally, in the cocktails afterwards, and we started talking about different items, and what he was doing within the monetization of his podcast. And so, we kind of cooked up this concept where we were gonna create the LegalZoom for Opportunity Zones, and thus OZPros was born. And it was fantastic, right? We figured out real fast that it was tough to let folks do it themselves. And so, we spawned this whole process, and a, you know, which basically became the business of OZPros, of providing advisory services for folks, and kind of full-service advisory work, for them to be able to put together their own captive Opportunity Funds. And, kind of, along the way, you know, we created this strategy call process, and we figured out that folks needed some ongoing assistance with their compliance stuff, and that’s what led to the creation of Ascent, and utilizing Ascent as a method for how folks, you know, once they use our program to get set up, can utilize Ascent in order to stay on top of, you know, just different stuff, you know, that’s going on, like getting specific compliance questions answered on their deals. And that’s literally what we created Ascent for, was to handle compliance for folks.

Jimmy: That’s great. Now, I wanna dive into OZ Ascent throughout the course of the podcast today. We’ll also be talking about my new group, OZ Insiders, and the group that we helped form with Chris Cooley a few years back, Ashley…

Ashley: Right.

Jimmy: …which was OZworks Group. Chris Cooley seems to have dropped off the stream. One thing we didn’t do for Chris is we didn’t get him a good, stable internet connection, I guess, but… Couple things I can interject during this live TV segment here, before we get to Chris. We’ll wait for him to get back. Andy Hagans, my co-founder at OZ Insiders, did chime in with a comment. Technical difficulties are just part of the fun of live TV. So, I’m glad you guys are enjoying the fun we’re having here today. He also mentioned that we’re the OZ Dream Team. Couldn’t disagree with that. So, thanks, Andy, for watching. By the way, if anybody does have any comments, if you have questions for me, or Ashley, or Chris, you just wanna chime in, go ahead and chime in with a comment. We’ll get it on the screen. Jake is excited for this. Thanks, Jake, for being here today. Ali says, “Hey, y’all.”

Ashley: Let me kind of go ahead and talk about the, like, what Chris, and give it maybe a little bit of a lead-in, based upon kind of the history…

Jimmy: Absolutely.

Ashley: …of formation, is that we originally formed OZworks Group to be kind of an entry point for folks that are trying to find, kind of get base information. And so, inside of, you know, OZPros, and ultimately inside of Ascent, we had folks that were, I guess, a little bit more into, where they’re like, “Okay, I’ve got a deal, I’ve got, you know, this, I’ve got my own capital gain,” or, “I know exactly kind of how I’m gonna go about going after that capital gain, like, if I’m gonna bring investors in.” And those folks, kind of, I guess, fit more into Ascent and into the package that we had put together to service folks that knew what they were gonna do. But there were a bunch of people that were, I don’t wanna call them tire-kickers, but they were trying to get more intro-level information. They’re like, “Okay, does Opportunity Zones, do Opportunity Zones work for maybe the context of, like, what we’re doing? And I need some more basic information.”

That’s why we created OZworks Group. And it was. It was a kind of a very wide base for folks that are wanting to get intro-level stuff. We put it on Mighty Networks’ platform, and then created lots of different, I guess, resources and educational content inside of that. It’s more, I think, beginner-focused. And then, as you kind of decide what you’re gonna do, you can, if you ultimately pull the trigger, step into Ascent. And I think it fits in nicely, right, to be the beginner entry point, where I’m maybe the, I guess, the 401 point, when they’ve decided and they’re going, and they’re rocking and rolling with their deal, and they’ve got the specific questions. Man, I’ve been taking Chris’s thunder about, you know, intro, and, like, why we did it. And I’ll turn that over to you, like, the history of creating OZworks Group, and what you guys are doing now.

Chris: Sorry, guys.

Jimmy: Emily chimed in and said, OZworks Group members, I think is what she’s referring to as “we.” “We” or “them,” “We call them OZ-curious.” Kind of a funny one, there. Emily, thanks for chiming in. Chris, over to you. Ashley gave a little bit of an intro to OZworks Group, but would love to learn more about who is Chris Cooley, how did you learn about OZs, and give us a little bit more scoop on OZworks Group, and the end of the marketplace that it is designed for?

Chris: Yeah, sweet. Thanks, guys. If there’s one thing I am, it’s resourceful. So, multiple browsers, multiple devices, trying to get into this thing. Anyway. Yeah, no, I mean, I remember when you guys kind of teed this up, and, you know, my background in building collaborative physical workspaces, like, the application, was always sort of a vision of mine, is to, like, take it all online. Take all the best practices from co-working spaces and things that I was working on, and that’s how Ashley and I crossed paths, was doing a project with UNC, and working with an innovation center that they were creating, and you know, it’s like, I was learning about OZs through my clients, and when you guys called me, and remember, you kind of asked me to build LinkedIn in, like, three weeks, and for, like, I don’t know, $3 grand or something like that, and I said no. But yeah, no, it’s, like, one of those things that I dreamed about, and then realized that you had a solution.

Ashley: I wanted a job board, Chris, right?

Chris: Yeah.

Ashley: I wanted… And it wasn’t LinkedIn. It was more like Upwork. I was like, “Hey, dude. Let’s…”

Chris: Upwork. Yeah, there was an Upwork…

Ashley: “…be the Upwork for Opportunity Zones.”

Chris: Yeah. I saw it as, like, a LinkedIn thing. But no, it was really cool. I mean, you know, working with you guys to create this resource, I know in the beginning, you know, it was kind of a catch-all. We wanted…there wasn’t really a place for the practitioners, or deals, and people to connect and be connected, to learn more about this. I mean, we could say, I guess, that was more of an infant mode, right, for the industry. And I think what’s really cool is now that things have evolved, and you’ve got, you know, an opportunity to educate more people still, that’s really where we come in, I think where Emily was saying OZ-curious people. You know, Jimmy, you and I talked about consolidating, and what we’ve done is we’ve really consolidated our membership into one track, and synced up with Ashley and OZPros, to be able to help people make a decision really quickly as to whether this is gonna work for them or not, and then have them have an access point, to kind of hang out and understand it a bit more, get some peace of mind, and then get connected to a group like OZPros, that we’ve, you know, partnered with, that can actually execute really quickly, and do it efficiently, and without having a whole lot of stress, and with tools and templates, and people, that can get it done.

So, yeah. That, I mean, that’s the evolution of things, but, I mean, without you guys, I’m not here, and I’m not in OZs, and I don’t have an investment, and I don’t have a mechanism. So, like, I have major gratitude for all that, and it’s just, it’s exciting to see, and know that we’ve all shaped and now created a place for very specific types of people. Jimmy, especially, you know, your group, and, I think fills that middle ground that we were trying to sort of create a net for, and a place for, knowing that now we don’t have to be everything to everyone. And it’s nice to know that we can all collaborate and sync up on that.

Jimmy: No, it’s great, Chris. Thanks for that. Thanks for being here. Thanks for coming back. I’m glad we got your tech difficulties sorted out. You look and sound great. I’ll introduce myself, briefly, as well, in case there may be some people here who may be unfamiliar with me. I know you guys each sent this to your own personal network. So, I’m Jimmy Atkinson. I founded OpportunityDb, the Opportunity Zones database, in 2018, and OpportunityDb is the leading educational resource and marketplace for learning about Opportunity Zone investments, and actually making Opportunity Zone investments. We also have resources for those who are looking to raise equity from Opportunity Zone investors. Now, I later helped form OZPros with Ashley, as Ashley mentioned, and eventually also helped to form OZworks Group, with Ashley and Chris, as Ashley and Chris just mentioned.

Just in the last few months, I’ve formed OZ Insiders. It’s my brand-new Opportunity Zones mastermind group. It sits kind of in a different place than OZworks Group and OZ Ascent. We’re not really structured for the beginner. We’re for more the advanced person, or professional. And Ashley’s group is great if you’re looking for compliance and technical guidance. We launched this group, OZ Insiders, in November of 2023, just a couple of months ago. We already have about 35 members in the group right now. At OZ Insiders, as I mentioned, our members are advanced high performers, high-performing Opportunity Zone professionals, and investors, or super investors, I like to call them. And essentially, we help get them access to our network, and so they can stay in the know on key Opportunity Zone trends and emerging news. So, I wanted to discuss these three groups in more detail throughout the show today. But first … I don’t know, I kind of wanted to zoom out a minute. You know, the title of this episode, I titled it “Navigating the Opportunity Zones Industry,” so maybe we can get thoughts from both of you on what is the current state of the Opportunity Zones industry, or how would you characterize it at this moment in time, as we sit here, early January 2024, and we’re now less than three years away from the deferral date of December 31, 2026, when this program sunsets? Ashley, I’ll turn to you first, get your high-level thoughts on the state of the OZ industry.

Ashley: You know, I think that there’s a lot of…there still remains, number one, a lot of people that don’t know about it, which is shocking to me. And that, even inside of people that maybe have heard about it, a lot of misinformation, that they think that it’s timed out, that it’s, you know, that it’s no longer something that’s viable. And both of those, you know, I’ve directly tried to correct those misconceptions whenever I get the opportunity to do so. And, you know, we still have three years of runway of being able to get capital gains into Opportunity Funds, and hopefully that we’ll see some extension, right? We’ll see some legislation that gets passed. There’s currently pending legislation. Who knows as to whether they’re gonna be able to pull that off, to get that done before, kind of, that April 30th deadline for this year. I think the chances are slim to middling that it happens during an election year.

If it doesn’t, I think that more than likely, we’re probably gonna see, definitely, regardless of the election outcome, I think that we’ll see something happen, because both sides of the aisle, right, this legislation is bicameral, bipartisan, and we’re probably gonna see something happen. And I think that that’s a lot of what folks are waiting on. Now, with that being said, when it gets extended, I think it’s gonna make OZ deals and OZ property, I think it’s gonna cause it to, you know, to substantially increase, right, to really take a tick up. And so, the smart folks, that are inside of the industry, are still out there trying to grab, you know, the deals that they can, and try to get deals done. I will say that it’s been, you know, that things have kind of flipped on their head, relative to, like, what was getting funded at the beginning, versus what is getting funded now. Everybody was doing multifamily deals when this thing first started, and multifamily deals have become kind of pariah, just because of the difficulty in getting, you know, debt funding out there, and the difficulty in getting debt funding for just, kind of, aggregate deals, which has led to more folks, you know, utilizing the program as a way and a method to justify needing more equity in deals. And so, I’d say that the state of the industry is that people have figured out how to, you know, to use OZs as a play to kind of mitigate what’s happened in the economy, relative to debt markets and debt, you know, just loan-to-value amounts going down. So, it’s been pretty cool to see how folks have done that, and what’s been really cool is to see how many actual impact deals are being done out there, and that, and especially now, that those are the ones that are getting attention.

Jimmy: Great thoughts, Ashley. Thanks for your insights. Chris, turn to you. You got a little bit different perspective than Ashley does. You’re not an attorney, doing boring attorney stuff all day long. You get to…you’re a community builder.

Chris: I don’t know, man. I was just in Ascent, and it was anything but boring today, yeah.

Jimmy: I’m just giving Ashley a hard time. You know that.

Chris: Yeah, for sure.

Jimmy: We love you, Ashley. Hey. So, but, Chris, what are your thoughts on the OZ industry? How it’s evolved since you came into play in the last few years, and how would you characterize it, as we sit here at the beginning of ’24?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s, I do have a different perspective. You know, being an entrepreneur, and being, like, sort of adjacent to real estate, through my co-working, and, you know, shared office space days, you know, as an entrepreneur, I think, you know, what Ashley mentioned about education is really important. You know, most entrepreneurs are not teed up to, like, understand tax incentives. You know, where real estate, it’s an all-day, every-day play in the overall structure of the business entity, and, like, how the deal works. So, I think one of the things that I found really challenging is helping to explain to entrepreneurs why this is a big deal, right? And so, you know, startup companies, wanting to keep the lights on and make revenue is priority number one. But to say, “Hey, think long-term about exiting, and how you’re gonna grow this business and scale it,” is something that I think, you know, has been really amazing to start to educate people on, and get them to understand. So, that’s one of the ways that I sort of, like, still, like Ashley said, educating people is still a challenge on getting the word out. So I appreciate, Jimmy, everything that you’ve been doing to, like, get that word out, from day one.

And, you know, the other thing is, I don’t know if you’re seeing this as well, but it feels to me, and through my conversations, I mean, we’ve got, I’ve just looked today, and we’ve got 429 members in OZworks Group across the country, and I think a lot of that is people who have maybe, through the early news about this, when it was forefront of the news cycles, and there were headlines about Opportunity Zones, that people got really interested and curious and excited, and then it was a, it kind of became a split, right? The people who could understand it, and had a knowledge of tax, and planning, and how that can be part of a long-term generational wealth plan really leaned in, and found people like Ashley, and started to do it. And then the media kind of lost track of the headline, and then the interest goes away, and the people who are sort of standing on the sidelines, going, “I wish I could know more about this,” it’s like, “Eh. Maybe I just won’t do it.” Right? So, you have now a sort of split, where I think we have an opportunity to really educate people, more so now that we’ve got these different groups, right, to say, like, if you’re beginning, start here. Once you hit the middle ground, or you’re a service provider, and you wanna get into the, like, network like you have, Jimmy, you know, where it’s, like, exchanging ideas, right, like, go there. And then, if you really wanna, like, execute on this stuff, go to OZPros, right? So, I think that that’s what I’ve seen in the evolution, at least from my perspective, and not being in, like, the nuts and bolts of it on a daily basis, of the legal part, and the CPA part.

Now, at the same time, we set up OZworks Group as a QOZB. So, I do know a lot about compliance, because it falls on my shoulders to do that, and…

Ashley: You were asking a question today, as a matter of fact, in Ascent, and got that thing nailed down.

Chris: Exactly. Exactly. Like, within two seconds, right? Like, I literally was, like, “Here’s my spreadsheet. Here’s what we’re doing. What do I need to do based on this?” right? And, so, yeah, I mean, it’s really cool that we all kind of can wear different hats, and inspire and educate different types of people. I look forward to doing that more, now that we’re recalibrating, and making it, like, a much more streamlined process for people who are stepping into this.

Jimmy: That’s great, Chris. I wanna talk more about Ascent and OZworks Group in a moment. I’ll give my thoughts on the state of the industry. I actually, I’m gonna, I guess I’m gonna focus on the marketplace, and transaction volume primarily. By the way, I think we’re talking about, basically, three different types of big stakeholder buckets, that all three of our groups can service. I mean, one bucket is folks who are leveraging Opportunity Zones as a way to raise more equity for their business, or real estate project that falls within an Opportunity Zone. Opportunity Zones, great tool to raise that part of the capital stack, to get some, to offer your investors some additional value through the Opportunity Zone incentive. Right? And then, you know, we’ve got the investors themselves, high-net-worth investors, family offices, ultra-wealthy, but also the folks that represent them, primarily advisors, RIAs. If you trigger a capital gain in real estate, you could do a 1031, but you could also do an Opportunity Zone, which has some interesting flavor to it, that’s a little bit different than 1031s.

If you generate a gain outside of real estate, through stock market investing, or private business transaction, you don’t really have any other option other than Opportunity Zones if you wanna defer capital gains. And that third group is service providers. If you’re an accountant, or an attorney, or any other type of professional consultant within the industry, you know, industry best practices, staying on top of trends, and staying in the know on what’s going on with Opportunity Zones, you know, all three of our groups can help with that. Anyways, I’m gonna share my take on state of the Opportunity Zones marketplace, very briefly. By the way, I cover this in a special 2024 episode of the “Opportunity Zones Podcast,” which is gonna be released later this week. But essentially, 2023 was a down year, compared to past years, 2022 especially. And a couple reasons why. M&A transaction volume was sharply down last year. According to a recent report from S&P Global Insights, total M&A transaction volume is down 32% year over year.

Real estate transaction volume was also sharply down, even worse. According to CBRE, U.S. commercial real estate investment volume fell by 54% year over year. So, you’re triggering, a lot fewer capital gains are getting triggered. Now, as a result, we see a lot less OZ investment year over year. Novogradac does a great job of tracking the industry. Their data for Q4 of 2023 is not yet available. Probably become available later this month or early next month. But if you compare the first three quarters of ’22 to that same time period in ’23, equity raising by Opportunity Zone Funds was down sharply year over year, down 62%, unfortunately. Now, I do think there’s some good news on the horizon. The S&P 500 is up near record highs. It was up nearly 25% just last year, in 2023. It ended just a fraction of a percentage point away from an all-time high. So, if you’re a stock market investor, I believe now more than ever before, OZs can be a very attractive option for those with highly appreciated equity portfolios. I’ll go into more detail on that on my podcast later this week, but that’s basically, I think that’s a pretty good recap state of the industry. We all covered slightly different perspectives there.

I wanted to turn back now toward our three different groups. So, I’ll ask, I’ll pose this question to each of us. I guess that’s a two-part question. Who is in your group? Who’s a typical person who’s in your group? And how do you help them? Like, what is the format of the group, essentially. Ashley, we can start with you first.

Ashley: Yeah. So, the format’s really easy. Think of it as, like, office hours, right? So, it’s 10:00 to 11:30 every Tuesday. And we, you know, it’s on Zoom, and through OZworks Group. So, we administer Ascent through OZworks Group. And so, it’s basically kind of like a, it’s like another tier that you can get into via OZworks Group. And so, all of the recordings are contained on there. It’s one easy access point, where you can go in and you can ask questions inside of the feed. You can direct message me, you know, and all of the recordings, that have all of the questions, are available in one easy-to-access location, in one easy-to-search location. And so, it becomes a repository for being able to get that information out, and get it fairly readily.

And the folks that are in Ascent are typically people that have done… Well, I’d say that probably 80% of them are folks that have utilized us to form their captive QOF, where they’re either doing their own deal, or they’re raising money. So, for folks that are trying to raise money, and they are doing an Opportunity Zone deal, and they need, you know, specific questions about how they’re conducting their business, then we’ve got those folks in there. So, I’ve got, you know, mixed-use developers. I’ve got a bunch of storage developers. I got a bunch of RV park developers. We’ve got a bunch of folks that are doing kind of their own real estate deals, that are looking for solar guidance, that kind of thing. And so, we will get deep into the, kind of, the technical questions about how you make those things work, both within Opportunity Zones, but then also, on a bigger, kind of, tax mitigation scale. And so, we’re bringing additional tax mitigation strategies to the table inside of that, and expanding it into more of, kind of, a, I guess, kind of a tax mitigation think tank, if you will. And so, that’s the, you know… I mean, you know, and so, we’ve got individuals that have $200,000 of gain, that have done their own deal, and then we’ve got funds that are raising $20 million. And so, it kind of runs the gamut between that. I’d say the lion’s share of folks are investors, and people that have their own money, and have their own gains. And then they are either doing their own deals or looking to…they’re, it’s usually a combination where they’re doing their own deals, and they’re looking to put money to work into other deals as well.

Jimmy: That’s great. Well, thanks, Ashley, for your insights on OZPros and OZ Ascent. Chris, I’m gonna give the mic to you. But first, we did have a comment come in from Taylor. Taylor wants to know, “What memberships does OZworks Group offer?” So, maybe you can you can also include that in your answer, but essentially, who is in OZworks Group? What’s a typical member look like? How do you help that person? What’s the format, and what different membership levels are available?

Chris: Yeah. So, I look at it like an entry point, right? So, we have two different… Taylor, thanks for the question. We have two different memberships. We had a lot more, but we’ve really consolidated. So, we have a freemium membership, which is access to a lot of different, like, best tools that we’ve found, like, warp speed tools. So, there’s a structure inside of there that just says, like, step one, start here, step two, step three. And just, like, this information is available in other places, but we just wanted to create a really clear structure for it.

And then, the next tier up is a $39-a-month membership. So, we wanted to make something really affordable and accessible, that doesn’t have any long-term commitments. There’s only monthly options. But who’s in there? I mean, Jimmy, there’s some crossover, right? I mean, there’s people who facilitate experts that are in our community, that are also crossing over into your OZ Insiders group. And I think it’s really cool that people can take steps. I mean, we just wanted to create a ladder that people could climb, quickly and effectively, right, before they really make a commitment to Opportunity Zones. Like, our goal was to help people find out if it makes sense for them. And so, I look at OZworks Group like a co-working space. You guys know my background was in creating those types of organizations and structures.

And so, like, the freemium, is like a free tour, right? Come check out the co-working space. See if you vibe with everyone. And wow, here’s some great information to get me to the next step. You know, the next membership is like a hot desk, right? If you’re familiar with that, like, you get to hang out, participate in different events that we have. We have four different Zoom events that happen on a reoccurring schedule. One is about real estate. One is about compliance. One is just general strategy, so, there’s, like, no dumb questions. You just bring them. And then, another one that we’re gonna be implementing in 2024 is a networking event. So, just like a co-working space, you know, once a month, you get to mingle with anybody who’s a member. And like I mentioned, there’s, like, 429 members as of right now.

But, yeah. I mean, the, Ashley would basically be, in OZPros, like, the anchor tenant on the third floor, that takes up the whole third floor, right? Like, they’re like the Apple in when WeWork was a thing, right? Like, there’s a bunch of big companies that have really, really deep knowledge, and are doing really amazing things. And so, there’s an opportunity to cross paths with those folks inside of our community as well, even as beginners. So, everybody who’s a member will be able to access those networking events. It’s gonna be kind of like speed dating, where we just do rapid-fire breakout rooms, and you get to meet people, and share ideas. And so, yeah, I mean, I think that that sort of parallel makes a lot of sense, just to even give them my background, but it’s really meant to be an affordable and accessible way in to Opportunity Zones, so that people can, you know, learn, and get excited about it, and then take action, like, to move forward and execute. So, that’s what we’re all about there.

Jimmy: Perfect. That’s a good segue into OZ Insiders, which I’ll talk about now for a couple minutes. We’re a little bit less affordable, maybe less accessible, you could say. Our membership is, we offer one membership tier. It’s $299 per month. We also have an annual plan that costs $3000 per year. Our members, as I mentioned before, are high-performing Opportunity Zone professionals and investors. It’s meant to be more of an advanced group, which is part Opportunity Zones community, part we serve as connectors to help you get a shortcut to get to where you need to go, to help you advance your Opportunity Zone strategy to the next level, and also part educational experience, where we do our monthly meetings and monthly mastermind. So, I’ll tell you briefly what you get when you join OZ Insiders. You first get access to our Rolodex. We’ve been leaders in the Opportunity Zone space since 2018. I think we have just about the most extensive Rolodex in the industry, rivaling Ashley’s, at least. Ashley is one of the people in our Rolodex we point people to the most often. We basically can help connect you to the right people, depending on what you need. We’ve already done this with multiple folks who have joined our group recently. I did a strategy call a few weeks ago with Doug in California. He’s building retail centers in central and Northern California. We helped get him plugged in to some attorneys to help structure his Opportunity Zones deal.

We’re also currently working with Tess and Brian in Arizona. They’re putting together their Monte Dei Globe project, which is a beautiful, beautiful project. They just got approval from the city council to proceed with that development. So, great milestone they’re clearing there, and we’re helping advise them on getting their pitch deck together, and getting them plugged into the legal experts that they need to help move the ball down the field. We also have interactive monthly meetings and master classes. Whereas Ashley’s meetings are every week, ours are only once a month, so a little bit less frequently. We meet once a month, via Zoom. We just had our January meeting yesterday. That meeting is a chance for all of us to get together, share ideas, and it also features a master class. You’re gonna learn from the leading professionals in the Opportunity Zones industry on subjects like how to structure OZ deals, which is the presentation that Ashley gave to our group in December.

Andrew Doup just gave our presentation yesterday, on Opportunity Zone private placement memoranda and subscription docs. That was a really fun workshop that Andy Hagans helped to run with Andrew yesterday. We’re also gonna cover legislative and regulatory news, and other key emerging trends. Our meeting for next month, by the way… By the way, our upcoming master class schedule can be found at ozinsiders.com/calendar, if you wanna see what’s on the agenda. But just to quickly run you through what we’re cooking up in our next few months here, our February master class, on February 12th, will be on the topic of Opportunity Zones legislation. Shay Hawkins will be the presenter there. Shay helped draft the initial legislation, as a member of Senator Tim Scott’s office, way back when, I think 2015, 2016, 2017, those years, he was working on that, before it got pushed through as part of the TCJA at the end of 2017. Shay is now the president of the Opportunity Funds Association, which is a very large trade organization for Qualified Opportunity Funds, so we’re really pleased to have Shay lend his insights into what’s going on with Opportunity Zones legislation, when it may pass, what it’s gonna look like.

Our March master class, I’m gonna be teaching on the topic of raising Opportunity Zone equity, so, if you are using Opportunity Zones as a way to raise equity from investors, I’ll have some insights there for you. Our April master class will be on the topic of diligencing Opportunity Zone deals. So, our presenter there is still to be determined. We’re gonna probably make that announcement next week, but this one’s gonna be aimed at investors, and essentially it’ll teach those investors what should you look for before you sink money into an Opportunity Zone deal, through your own QOF, or, before you write a check to a QOF, if you’re investing as an LP.

All of our master classes, our meetings, are available on-demand, in a library for our members. Just log in through ozinsiders.com into your dashboard. One other thing you’re gonna get, by the way, is access to the community of high performers. All of our members kind of get access to one another, right, our entire OZ Insiders community, through our private Slack chat group, and our in-person events. We’re gonna have our first in-person event. It’ll be a dinner, in Dallas, Texas, on March 11th. And then, essentially, you get 24/7 access to our private chat group on the Slack app, where you can ask our fellow members, or myself, or Andy, any questions that you may have. So, that’s a brief recap of all three of our of our different groups there.

Gentlemen, I think we’re probably running a little bit low on time here. We could keep going for a few more minutes. I see we do have quite a few questions, actually. So maybe we can spend some time, get into these questions, and then we’ll get some URLs from each of you before we sign off. But let’s see if I can get this one here. Well, first of all, just a nice comment from Brad. I’ll just put that up on the screen while I kind of read through the rest of these. But Brad says, “Kudos to all of you for sharing your wisdom. Well done.” Thank you, Brad, for joining. Brad’s been a great friend of mine, industry OZ friend for the last few years, and really appreciate his support. Shasta asks, “What OZ programs would you advise for newbies to get additional insight on the OZ marketplace?” I’ll field that one first, and then Ashley and Chris, if I miss anything, feel free to chime in. But there’s a few different programs that I like. So this isn’t just a shameless plug for all of my stuff, I’ll first refer you to the Novogradac Opportunity Zones Resource Center. You can find that at novoco.com, or just do a search for Novogradac, N-O-V-O-G-R-A-D-A-C, Opportunity Zones Resource Center. They have a list of funds on their website, and they have a lot of great resources there.

Now, for all of my stuff, we have a listing of over 100 different Opportunity Zone Funds that are currently raising equity, on our website, at opportunitydb.com. Just click “Funds” in the top nav. That’ll show you what the marketplace actually looks like. We also do a live online event, which showcases a number of different Opportunity Zone Funds, it essentially forms the marketplace for Opportunity Zone Funds, three times a year. That event is called OZ Pitch Day. You can learn more about that by heading to ozpitchday.com. Ashley, Chris, what did I miss? What other programs would you advise for newbies to get additional insight on the OZ marketplace?

Ashley: Chris, take it away, man.

Chris: I mean, I always look at a question and then ask more questions, right? So, I think I would ask, what types of programs are you looking for? What are you looking to achieve, right? You talk about advisory, Jimmy, and, like, you know, just the dialogue between us. You know, is this something that you wanna bring back to the community? Are you looking to make a deal happen, you know, for yourself? Do you have property in an OZ? There’s a lot of things that I could unpack, based on this question, so I don’t mean to dance around it, but I would say, like, post a question or an additional question, or more insight into the comments in this thread of this podcast, and we can respond, or point you in other directions. But, you know, these questions are where these groups, like Jimmy mentioned, his Slack channel, we have a platform, you know, inside of our community where you can ask questions and interact, and that’s what it’s meant to be. It’s, like, to ask deeper questions and get to the bottom of what you really want to achieve through the programs. Because there’s a lot of stuff that we could point you to, right? So…

Ashley: So, and, to that end, I mean, and I’m gonna plug OZworks Group inside of that, is that, to answer your question, OZworks Group was specifically designed in order to provide resources for exactly what you’re talking about. It’s got educational material in there, and it’s got base-level educational material, to where, if you’re just starting out, you’re a true newbie, you could go from newbie to PhD with just the video courses that are inside of OZworks Group. And so, I would say that that’s probably the easiest path, is to kind of navigate that. And then, because that might define the scope, because you may not know the answer to some of the questions that Chris is talking about. And so, if you’re truly kinda OZ-curious, OZworks Group is the place to navigate through that. And then, based on that, once you kind of formulate your strategy, you know, so, we’ve got strategy calls that we can do through OZPros, or, you know, you can… And then that can kind of inform whether you go, you know, you need to join into Jimmy’s community, or potentially where you’re like, “Hey, yeah, I wanna bite the bullet. I wanna set up my own fund, wanna use OZPros to do that, and then I need some compliance assistant on going forward.” So…

Chris: I also just wanna chime in and say, you know, Jimmy, your podcast is the place, right? If you’re looking for, you know, if you’re the type of person that wants, like, to really dig in to, like, long-form content, you drive a lot in the car, listen to the podcast, like, it’s a great way to, like, do a deep dive. You know, we wanna be able to have these different places and programs where people can, like … in warp speed if they want to, right? And that’s what we really wanted to do with, like, our freemium access to OZworks Group. But there’s a lot of questions to ask, and it can be complex, but we’re trying to, like, make it as streamlined as possible, depending on what type of learner you are, depending on what you want to achieve. So, yeah. I wish I had a more straightforward answer, but I think it’s important to know the details before.

Jimmy: It was a loaded question, for sure. By the way, Shasta, and everyone else… Shaster, excuse me, and everyone else, I did just post links to the resources that we just mentioned, our list of Opportunity Zone Funds, OZ Pitch Day, and the “Opportunity Zones Podcast.” And I also put our team email address, [email protected]. I gotta post the Novogradac Opportunity Zones Resource Center. I’ll do that in a moment. Shaster did follow up, by the way, with an additional question. “Is there a platform to locate investors for OZ properties that owners are looking to sell? Lots that are not advertised.” I don’t know the answer to that question, but I think I know somebody who might know. So, Shaster, if you email my team, [email protected], I can help point you in the right direction. Ashley, Chris, I don’t know if you had any thoughts on that, or not.

Ashley: So, I think, there’s a number of places, right, I mean, where you can hunt. You’re looking for target-rich environments. And, you know, certainly, Jimmy’s, you know, his OpportunityDb is absolutely a place where you could find that. And he said he’s looking for lots?

Jimmy: Yeah, that’s what she said. She’s looking for… Let me see. I’m gonna put the comment back up on the screen here. Off-market lots, essentially. Lots that are not advertised.

Ashley: Yeah…

Jimmy: “Is there a platform to locate investors for OZ properties that owners are looking to sell?”

Ashley: Yeah. So, I mean, you know, there’s actually, there’s a number of different software programs that help people to track down, like, owners of properties like that. And actually, I helped a gentleman that’s got a program like that. His name’s Scott Fahl, and it’s called… Oh, man. GetPrivy is the name of his program. And so, programs like that would be kind of where I would say that you probably wanna be looking for. CoStar, that kind of drill. Because you gotta find the information about who owns it, and then you gotta be able to reach out and contact them. I don’t know that there is a repository of that, because, by very definition, they’re off-market. So you gotta contact the people directly.

Jimmy: Chris, I don’t know if you had any additional thoughts on that or not.

Chris: Well, I just dropped a link in, Jimmy, a private chat. I don’t know if you can share this or not, but there’s a new sort of initiative called opportunityzonedeals.com, and we’ve been talking a little bit about them. Remember, back in the day, there was something called the… What was that called? The OZ…

Jimmy: There’s OZ FundHub? Or, well, there was OP sites also.

Chris: Yeah. And there was another one, Opportunity Exchange. So, this is a sort of a similar idea, or concept, that I was just informed of, from… Yeah. I can put the link in there. opportunityzonedeals.com. It’s brand-new, so this is an initiative that’s just taking off. And, yeah. So, I think that that’s a big piece of the puzzle, that, you know, is missing. I think we say this all the time, right? Ashley, what’s the thing? You’re more likely to die of starvation or something like that?

Ashley: That, yeah. So, no, you’re way more likely to die from indigestion from too many opportunities than not enough. And so, that’s the key thing, is kind of being able to weed through the chaff, so that you can find the wheat. Chris, you know, another, kind of, thing that I think that would be good for folks to have, and I don’t know if you can get it into the chat, but I’ve got… and you, I think that you created this thing, as a Typeform, that kind of goes down what you’re… Well, it’s not working on that one. Yeah …

Chris: There’s a QR code …

Ashley: My share screen deal, through OBS, it’s, usually, I can get pretty cute on it, but we’ll just have to put the link to it. We’ve got a QR code on it, but, effectively, it’s how you can, like, go through and ask a bunch of questions about, right, like, what you’re trying to accomplish inside of your OZ journey. And then it can direct you to the right resource. So, I don’t know if you can pop that into the chat, Chris.

Jimmy: Where does that live, Ashley?

Ashley: What’s that?

Chris: I’ll pull up that link, Jimmy, and I’ll send it to you to share.

Jimmy: Okay. Okay. I’ll post it. Yeah. I’ll get …

Chris: It’s just a …

Jimmy: I’ll get that up in a minute.

Chris: It’s a free assessment tool. Yeah.

Jimmy: Okay. Excellent. Yeah. Send me that link, and I’ll put it through the comment stream here. We did get another question in from Brad. “Guys, quick question. Have you noticed that the HUD, the HUD website hasn’t been working for months, to show OZs? User error on my part?” Well, I pulled it up here, Brad. So, I’m sharing the stream right now. This is what the OZ map on the HUD website, Opportunity Now, opportunityzones.hud.gov, looks like. It is broken. And you’re not the only person to tell me this. I think it’s been broken for several weeks, maybe a few months. That’s right. I don’t know. I think maybe they didn’t pay their bill from Esri. Good news is, at OpportunityDb, we did pay our bill, and we do have an Opportunity Zones map that is fully functional. This is available at opportunitydb.com/tools/map, and you can kind of… I’ll zoom in here, so you guys can see a little better, but you can essentially just see all the designated areas are the blue shaded regions. If you have a particular address you wanna plug in, or maybe you wanna look up a city, like Rochester, New York. What do you think about that? Chris Cooley, who lives in Rochester, New York? You can see all the Opportunity Zones in Rochester, New York, and their census tract numbers. And then, if you click through it, you can get a little bit more information on that particular census tract, so … we got you covered, the HUD map. HUD lets you down, but we don’t let you down at OpportunityDb.

Chris: Can I make a quick note about that educational note, Jimmy, about the math?

Jimmy: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chris: Just because you have a property in the zone does not make you an Opportunity Zone qualified deal. Right? I don’t know if, Ashley, I don’t wanna get into the specifics, but, like, I know a lot of people have said, like, “Oh, yeah. I’m an OZB.” But just because you’re in the zone doesn’t, like, you know, it doesn’t make your funds activated and ready to go.

Ashley: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You got… Yeah, there’s, I was gonna say. It definitely makes you eligible, and you’re not eligible unless you’re in a zone. But, yeah, there’s a lot of stuff that you gotta do…

Jimmy: So, let me, Ashley, let me stop you right there, because we just got a question from “Here for Good,” asks, “Do you offer any info on starting QOZBs?” So, please, continue.

Ashley: Yeah, absolutely. So, once again, that’s what we do at OZPros. We help people do all of the documentation around this. And inside of OZworks Group, there’s a fair amount of information that’s available if you want to kind of learn about it yourself. If you want a shortcut, you wanna just go ahead and do it, that’s what we do. And the key is, is that there’s five tests that you gotta comply with. And so, it could be any entity, whether it’s a newly-formed entity, or whether it’s one that’s, you know, already existing, and they basically raise their hand, and they say, “Hey, listen. I wanna comply with those five tests, and I’m willing to do so. And I wanna take capital from a capital gain that’s gone through a Qualified Opportunity Fund.” And then you can become a QOZB. And so…

Chris: I would say, use that form, that goes through OZPros. It was made to, in less than three minutes, kind of get you thinking about questions that you should think about if you wanna consider this, and also kind of point you in the right direction of what your next step should be. It’s awesome. Ashley, I commend you for creating that, and putting it out there just so people can really, really step into it quickly. So, I don’t know. I sent that link, Jimmy. I think…

Jimmy: I didn’t even know about it. I’m glad, you… No, I’m glad you sent me the link, Chris. I did just post it to the comment stream on YouTube, at least. If you’re watching on LinkedIn, I’ll have to post it there manually afterward, but I think it got posted to YouTube, at least. It’s a kind of a funky URL, so I can’t read it. It’s got a lot of letters in it.

Chris: Yeah, I don’t know …

Ashley: Yeah. You’re not gonna wanna push that. We need a TinyURL that then, that redirects to it.

Jimmy: We’ll get that sorted out next time. Gentlemen, I think we have covered all of the questions that we’ve got. No, we did get, just get one comment from Jay, I wanted to throw up on the screen. Jay says, “Hey, don’t forget about the Bitcoin miners building out energy infrastructure in OZs.” And Ashley, I remember, like, we covered a couple of deals. It’s been a few years now. I think it was back in ’20 or ’21, we had a couple of Bitcoin mining deals, where they were setting up Bitcoin mines in Opportunity Zones, as QOZBs, wrapping a QOF around there, and then taking an investment that way.

Ashley: Jay …

Jimmy: Yeah. So he knows what’s going on. So, anyways. Thanks for the comment there, Jay. Gentlemen, we’re approaching the top of the hour. I think it’s time to wind it down. But before we go, where can our audience go to learn more about all of our groups? Ashley, I’ll start with you. Final word on OZPros and OZ Ascent, and where should folks head to to learn more?

Ashley: Yeah, ozpros.com. Or, if you wanna take the assessment, you can certainly go, and follow that link over to the assessment. I think there might actually be another link on our website, to be able to get to that assessment. But certainly, at ozpros.com, it’s got all of the different ways that you can interact with us, how you can join Ascent, how you can set a strategy call, how you can go ahead and get your QOS and QOZBs started up. So, it’s fairly easy on that one.

Jimmy: Perfect. Chris, same question for you. Where can our audience go to learn more about OZworks Group?

Chris: It’s just ozworksgroup.com. You can check out the plans there. There’s, the freemium access point is always a simple inroad. No questions asked. Just come on in, and start to participate. And my biggest thing, though, would say, like, that Typeform, the form that Ashley and team have created, is, like, a super tool. So, I would definitely head over there as well.

Jimmy: Awesome. And for anyone interested in learning more about my brand-new mastermind group, OZ Insiders, if you wanna join us today, we have a 60-day, no-questions-asked money back guarantee, starting at $299 per month. Or you can save 17% by joining the yearly plan. You can learn more about our group, and how to join, at ozinsiders.com. For my podcast audience, listening wherever you are, or watching live, or watching wherever you may be, at any point in time in the future, show notes, no matter when or where you’re watching this, show notes will be available at opportunitydb.com/podcast, and they will have links to all of the resources that Ashley, Chris, and I discussed on today’s show. And please, please, please be sure to subscribe to us on YouTube, or your favorite podcast listening platform, to always get the latest episodes. Gentlemen, thanks again for joining me today. It’s been a real pleasure.

Ashley: You as well.

Chris: Thanks, Jimmy.

Ashley: Thank you, Jimmy.

Jimmy: That’s it for today’s show. Thanks for listening. As a reminder, you can find us online at opportunitydb.com. The “Opportunities Zones Podcast” is produced by OpportunityDb. This podcast is available on YouTube, Apple, Spotify, and all other podcast listening platforms. Just hit that subscribe or follow button, so you get all of our new episodes as we release them. And we’ll be back soon with another exciting episode.

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Discover Your Next Opportunity Zone Investment...

OZ Pitch Day

March 7, 2024