The International Falls Business Park is listed among sites included in a joint effort launched last week to market Minnesota’s 128 opportunity zones to investors and educate stakeholders about the federal incentive.

The Minnesota Opportunity Collaborative, or MNOppCo, “looks to invite all Minnesota stakeholders in opportunity zones to work together to inspire investment in these long-disadvantaged communities and neighborhoods,” said a news release.

MNOppCo’s web home, www.mnoppco.com, serves as a statewide resource for opportunity zone information. It features a directory of opportunity zone projects and sites, builds awareness and outreach through a statewide collaboration, and facilitates events to help train stakeholders, market investment opportunities, and bring projects to reality.

The International Falls Business Park is managed by the Koochiching Economic Development Authority, and the community was fortunate that a tract was selected for the state’s program, KEDA Director Paul Nevanen told The Journal.

“But, like any incentive or program, it’s only beneficial if we have an opportunity to utilize it,” he said. “With anything new, this will require education, awareness, and marketing. And, since we’re competing with other areas, it’s critical to have us represented in as many avenues as possible.”

Nevanen said the program is extremely attractive for the right investor. “We’re hoping that we can use it to attract investment, both local and outside,” he said.

The Business Park lies within the zone, as does as the U.S. Highway 53 corridor south of 15th Street, and includes the former Armory Building, which Nevanen said involves a data storage center and potential hospitality project, as well.

Huge potential

Meanwhile, the collaborative was established after a pilot project received considerable positive feedback and acclaim from across the state.

“Opportunity zones have the potential to attract billions of dollars in long-term investment into under-resourced census tracts across the country,” said Pam Kramer, executive director of Duluth Local Initiatives Support Corporation. “The Duluth Opportunity Zones Portal project is an example of the management, oversight, and partnerships necessary to ensure projects in opportunity zones fuel local economies and benefit people living and working within those zones. We are delighted that Duluth LISC’s Opportunity Zone Portal project has inspired a statewide mechanism benefiting Minnesota’s 128 opportunity zones.”

Projects and sites submitted by partners at no cost via an intake form appear within both the MNOppCo MN Opportunity Zone Directory and in a national directory hosted by The Opportunity Exchange.

Projects submitted by June 30 are also entered in the MN Opportunity Zone Challenge hosted by Community Exchange. MNOppCo has begun holding training events in communities across the state and will continue these efforts in the coming months. In order to develop a community of practice around opportunity zones, MNOppCo will lead regular web conferences to share experiences and resources.

MNOppCo is powered by The Northspan Group Inc., a Duluth-based private non-profit development organization that has provided professional business, community, and organizational development consulting services throughout the Upper Midwest since 1985. For further information on MNOppCo or Northspan, contact President and CEO Elissa Hansen at 218-481-7737 or ehansen@northspan.org.

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