A new focus on Opportunity Zones  took place during a special event in Charleston, South Carolina, that brought together lenders and federal officials in discussions of investment and credit access opportunities.
The event brought together approximately 50 bankers, developers, and community advocates from across the mid-Atlantic region. Featured presentations during the event included an overview of Opportunity Zone projects already underway in the region and insight on the potential for additional initiatives that could involve smaller community- and minority-owned banks serving the area.
Acting Comptroller of the Currency for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) Brian Brooks highlighted how participating lenders would be able to receive credit under his agency’s new Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rule.
“Today, bankers, community developers, and advocates got together to explore how to green-light projects that increase access to capital to meet local housing and community reinvestment needs,” said Brooks. “By combining incentives associated with Opportunity Zones and credit under the OCC’s new CRA rule, we have a powerful force for supporting underserved areas and creating sustainable change for communities in South Carolina and across the nation.”
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Benjamin Carson also spoke at the event and credited the Opportunities Zones in spurring a “revival of economic activity” and predicted the new CRA rule will further these endeavors.
“The new CRA rule will continue to draw bankers, lenders, and entrepreneurs to communities that are ripe with untapped investment and have grounds that are fertile with economic opportunity,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) told the event participants that the concept of Opportunity Zones had a personal resonance.
“As the author of Opportunity Zones, I created this initiative to ensure that families in distressed neighborhoods across the country had access to and could utilize the resources needed to climb out of poverty and build towards economic success,” he said. “Being raised in a single-parent household, I understand the importance of educating the underserved and minority communities on financial literacy and ownership, which is a tool that many are denied in our struggling communities.”
Scott added that he found the discussions during the event to be “encouraging,” noting he was eager to view “how this workshop yields results not only in South Carolina but across the nation to provide a hand-up towards economic opportunity.”
The event also included remarks from Fred Green, President and CEO of the South Carolina Bankers Association, and discussion sponsored by PNC Bank regarding Opportunity Zone investment strategies, and a presentation from TD Bank and the International African American Museum on how the development of the museum benefited from CRA credit and how similar deals could benefit under the new CRA rule.