“Bring jobs, safety, and opportunity back into the neighborhoods” – Ja’Ron Smith
Recently, at the Alternative Direct Investment Securities Association (ADISA) Conference in Washington D.C., our own Larry Sullivan had the esteemed privilege to sit with Mr. Smith in an in-depth interview about “Opportunity Zones”, one of the hottest topics in real estate today.
Ja’Ron Smith, Deputy Assistant to the President, White House Office of American Innovation and Executive Office of the President of the United States, earned the White House nickname of “O-Zone Ja’Ron” through his efforts to educate and advocate for what are now known as Opportunity Zones. The purpose of this new investment tool, approved by Congress through the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017, is to revitalize communities through opportunities, empowerment, safety and other revitalization initiatives such as real estate developments and infrastructure improvements including charter schools; jobs creation initiatives and business development investments that make it possible for local entrepreneurs to become business owners.
Raised by a single-parent household in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Smith earned an undergraduate degree in Finance at Howard University before earning a master’s degree in divinity, also from Howard. “When I was in high school, I saw friends and people I love who started to fall off that ladder of opportunity and that has really inspired me to do something to be a change or represent the interests of people who can’t really speak for themselves,” he said.
There are now 8,700 Opportunity Zones throughout the US in both rural and urban areas and more than 35 million Americans live in them. There are huge pools of capital gains that could be redirected to revitalization efforts in these areas says Mr. Smith and the Administration views the Zones as a seamless way to pull capital back over.
An early Opportunity success story: Major Flaggs, the Mayor of Vicksburg, Mississippi, is often credited as the first person to create an Opportunity Zone. “As a former legislator for 25 years, I’ve never seen any piece of legislation that allows more collaboration between federal, state and local government,” said Flagg. “45% of new Jobs in Mississippi were created in Vicksburg. Including the saving of 125 jobs in the city with salvaging of a plant created in 1889, through using the Opportunity Zone collaboration of state and federal officials.”
“Ja’Ron is a living example of what is great in America. If the mission of Opportunity Zones proves to be successful, it is certainly something all Americans can and should fully stand behind.” Larry Sullivan, President of Passco Companies.