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Success Story: Southeastern Regional Opportunity Zone Summit in Mississippi Illuminates How the Incentive Can Accelerate Efforts to Build Stronger, More Vibrant Communities

On September 30 - October 1, Assistant Secretary John Fleming participated in the Southeastern Regional Opportunity Zone Summit in Jackson, Mississippi.

In partnership with Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s office and the Milken Institute, the two-day event was initiated to examine how the new federal Opportunity Zone initiative can help accelerate regional efforts to build a stronger, more vibrant and resilient Southeast economy, and strengthen equitable growth in communities across Mississippi, the region, and the country.

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Southeastern Regional Opportunity Zone Summit

The first day featured a Milken Institute facilitated boot-camp, which offered an intensive, day-long training on the mechanics of the Opportunity Zone initiative. Day two provided a number of guest speakers and impactful panel discussions that highlighted how this important initiative can spur economic development in some of our nation’s most distressed communities.

Governor Bryant, who outlined how Mississippi became one of the first states to capitalize on the Opportunity Zone initiative said, “If we get Opportunity Zones right, we can bring back distressed communities in Mississippi and across the country.”

“By working together, we can strengthen the ability of private capital to transform our communities,” said Assistant Secretary Fleming, during opening remarks.

Governor Bryant was later joined on a panel by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and prominent leaders from the state governments of Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi to discuss Opportunity Zone success at the state level.

“Economic prosperity is the key for our South Carolina communities,” said Governor McMaster. “The Opportunity Zone initiative can help us get there.”

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Governors Phil Bryant and Henry McMaster speaking on a panel about Opportunity Zone success at the state level

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson offered the luncheon’s keynote remarks.

“On behalf of the White House Opportunity Zones Council (WHORC)", I’m pleased to announce some exciting updates on how this initiative is helping to revitalize and bring economic growth to distressed neighborhoods across the country,” said Secretary Carson. He and WHORC Executive Director Scott Turner discussed how the long-term social impact of Opportunity Zones will last for generations.

In September, HUD introduced a new website to serve as a hub of information regarding the initiative.

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Secretary Ben Carson featured on new opportunityzone.gov website

With the potential to impact the lives of so many people living and working in these specially-designated areas, Opportunity Zones can be a powerful driver of economic development in our nation’s low-income neighborhoods.

The two-day event was the first of many future regional summits; EDA and its partners look forward to continuing to spread the word of promise that Opportunity Zones bring to other regions across the nation.

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