White House, SBA, Clayton officials to hold Opportunity Zone Summit June 20 at CSU

Special PhotoDevelopment Authority of Clayton County Executive Director Khalfani Stephens.

JONESBORO — Clayton County’s small business owners will want to take note of the 2019 Federal Opportunity Zone Summit, the public portion of which is taking place June 20 at Clayton State University. The summit promises a big financial boost from the county for small businesses.

Speakers include White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council Executive Director Scott Turner, Small Business Administration Regional Administrator Ashley D. Bell, White House HBCU Initiative Executive Director Jonathan Holifield, Clayton County Chairman Jeffrey Turner and other federal, state and local leaders from HUD, the EPA and Opportunity Zone funders.

The event, billed as free and open to the public, will offer educational and “matchmaking“ opportunities in the Student Ballroom at Clayton State, 2000 Clayton State Blvd., Morrow. Dignitaries will begin speaking at 8:30 a.m.

However, an SBA spokesperson said the public event has “sold out“ and that interested parties must get on a waitlist. The link is www.eventbrite.com/e/opportunity-zone-summit-day-2-open-to-the-general-public-tickets-62028171932#tickets .

According to Development Authority of Clayton County Executive Director Khalfani Stephens, a group of eight businesses in a “targeted audience“ also was invited in a separate meeting beforehand to learn how to work with the federal government and to get a tour of “some potential properties” in Clayton County.

Stephens said no one will be missing out on the information nor on the chance to apply for funding if they cannot attend either day.

“Nothing is going to happen on either one of these days that is truly exclusive,” Stephens explained. “What I mean by that is no government resources are being given out, no secrets are being revealed, and somehow you will be at a disadvantage because you weren’t there. Literally, Day One is a targeted audience to say, ‘Hey, we think there’s an opportunity here in Clayton County for your company, let’s sit down and talk about that.’ Day Two is, again, a public event where we’re saying, ‘Hey, everyone in the public, there is this amazing thing called a HUB Zone that you probably don’t know about, and in Clayton County, where the Federal Opportunity Zone lines were drawn, they overlay the HUB Zones, so let us tell you how to take those two federal programs and utilize them together. Oh, and by the way, the Development Authority, in conjunction with Clayton County, entered into a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Small Business Administration to try and increase investment in these areas, and we’re going to tell you about that partnership.’“

HUB Zones, or Historically Underutilized Business Zones, have been around for about 20 years, Stephens said, and are designed to retain or bring in new businesses in once highly-commercialized areas.

“If your company’s primary office is located in a (HUB Zone) and you meet certain other qualifications, you can then apply to the federal government to be on a list ... for federal government set-asides,” Stephens said.

The Federal Opportunity Zone program is about a decade old, Stephens said, and is based on Census tracts, statistics and other data. “It’s meant to encourage investors to put money into areas that have not seen as much investment as surrounding areas.”

Here’s the kicker: According to Stephens, these overlays coincide with the Mountain View and Old Dixie-Tara Boulevard areas, which DACC has been in the process of revitalizing.

Clayton County has set aside money to make grants to small businesses for down payments on SBA loans “should they choose to relocate to Clayton County’s Opportunity Zone,” according to an SBA press release. “This grant process creates an incentive that makes Clayton County unique in its position in an Opportunity Zone.” Congress created the Opportunity Zone in 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as an incentive for long-term investment in low-income communities.

Because Clayton County is so close to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, according to the SBA, exporting is “a very attractive incentive for firms to establish their businesses in the area and for private equity firms to invest in the particular areas.”

Learn about SBA loans: www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans

How small businesses can get government contracts:

“Opportunity Zones“ podcast featuring Scott Turner: opportunitydb.com/2019/05/scott-turner-031/

Para emprendedores que hablan español: www.sba.gov/bienvenido-a-la-en-espanol.

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