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Opportunity Zone Businesses Receive Key Support in Riverside County

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OPINION

By Stacy Cumberbatch — Content Contributor

While the Opportunity Zone tax incentive introduced at the end of 2017 has well known benefits on the real estate development side, a lesser known aspect is how businesses can take advantage of the incentive for their own benefit. Riverside County aims to change that, doubling down on efforts to attract investment capital and new job opportunities to the county by fully utilizing the tool as part of its overall strategy. 

First, a bit of context. The Opportunity Zone incentive was introduced in December of 2017 as a bipartisan act as part of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, in essence, largely intended to be a job creation tool. Capital gains invested into the zones from the sale of real estate, stocks, or even cryptocurrency can receive attractive tax incentives including deferral, exemption, and exclusion of taxes for investing long term into the zones, with the maximum benefits coming from a 10 year investment period. In return, local communities, developers, and business owners can gain access to hyper local equity investments for development projects and business expansion. Now, in addition to seeking bank loans, or venture capital investments, Opportunity Zones capital is an entirely new source of capital with built in selling points to investors for project sponsors. Investors can be as small as local neighbors pooling gains or as large private equity funds or family offices, making the capital source truly ubiquitous. 

The zones were subsequently certified in June 2018, and guidelines around the legislation were released across three sets of regulations which took place between October 2018 to December 2019. With full clarity finally available, 2020 was poised to be a strong year for business investments into Opportunity Zones. Then a global pandemic hit in early February 2020, putting the world to a halt and leading the IRS to extend timelines for investment activity into the zones first to December 2020, and in January 2021, again extended relief to March 2021. In short, for individual investors with any capital gain event between October 4, 2019 and October 2, 2020, the deadline to invest could have been as long as a year versus the standard 180 days. 

Still, tremendous funds have been moved into the zones with estimates of equity raised by qualified opportunity funds (QOFs) tracked by Novogradac surpassing $15 billion at the end of 2020. More importantly, the number of investments in businesses is growing. NES Financial, a leading fund administration platform announced on its 2021 Trends report that after analyzing 300 QOFs there is a growing investment in operating businesses, up from roughly 20% of funds on their platform in 2018 to close to 32% in 2020. 

Businesses considering expanding in Riverside County are starting to notice this trend. Opportunity Riverside, an economic development advisory group focusing on Opportunity Zones and adjacent areas in the county, has been assisting and tracking both real estate and business projects in Opportunity Zones and has a current pipeline split almost 50/50. Some of the businesses preparing for Opportunity Zone capital range from an electric microgrid company in the Coachella Valley to a water desalination plant in the Salton Sea to an autonomous vehicle SaaS company with offices in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. 

A huge opportunity ahead. For business owners, some of the incentives of being in an Opportunity Zone or relocating to one include:  

  1. You make your business more attractive to potential outside investors and can seek investments (tax incentivized investment opportunity)
  2. You have the potential to retain more ownership in your business when receiving investment from a Qualified Opportunity Fund (a bigger slice of the pie)
  3. You have your own capital gains and want to invest them into your business and receive tax benefits (invest in yourself) 
  4. You want to receive priority consideration for federal contracting opportunities (via OZ and HUB Zones overlaps– 44 of the 49 OZs are also Hub Zones)
  5. You want to defer duty payments on merchandise until it is entered into U.S. commerce (via OZ and Foreign Trade Zones overlaps– 11 of the 14 cities that contain OZ census tracts also contains Foreign Trade Zone census tracts)
  6. You want preference points or priority consideration for grant opportunities (over 300 grants & programs aligned to OZs, some restrictions apply–nonprofit and/or local government partnership required in most instances)*
  7. You want to bring jobs into and impact a historically under-invested community that has been designated an OZ (impact investment / do good & do well)*
  8. You want to be in potential future paths of progress (following the zones)*

In fact, Blake Christian, CPA Partner with HCVT states that “Riverside County represents one of the top counties in the U.S. to start or move an OZ business into due to existing OZ buildings and infrastructure, large tracts of undeveloped land, excellent demographics, and very pro-business leadership. Due to the very flexible final regulations it is relatively easy to meet the OZ tests and entrepreneurs can start, acquire or move an existing business into an OZ census tract and begin the OZ tax-free period. Furthermore, Internal Revenue Code Section 1202 (Qualified Small Business Stock) can offer added flexibility for businesses in certain industries.

To qualify as a Qualified Opportunity Zone Business (QOZB), a few criteria have to be met according to IRS regulations including: 

  1. Be located in one of the 49 Opportunity Zone census tracts in the county
  2. 70% of tangible property owned or leased must be located within the zones and acquired after December 2017
  3. 50% of total gross income must be derived from active business conducted in the zones
  4. 40% of intangible property must be used in the zones
  5. Additional tests for Non Qualified Financial Property (e.g. stocks, bonds, and long-term notes) and sin businesses apply
  6. Additional tests for timeliness of use of funds and working capital safe harbors apply
  7. Additional investment criteria/underwriting may apply varying by investor

What’s Next in Riverside County. Given the number of tests needed to qualify as a QOZB, specialized CPAs and Attorneys are always needed in the process. To connect businesses and projects needed with the resources needed to complete deals, Blended Impact Labs, a venture development firm and innovation lab, is hosting a series of webinars in the month of April as part of Riverside County Innovation Month to focus on supporting businesses expanding and raising capital in Opportunity Zones with access to investors, CPAs, state and local resources, and more. 

Stacy Cumberbatch, Managing Director of Blended Impact Labs, adds “Riverside is unique in the variety of industries we support that would be ideal for Opportunity Zone investments. From life sciences labs and R&D anchored by UCR in opportunity zones in the west, to clean energy, agritech, and manufacturing businesses in zones in the central over to the east, our geography supports a wide range of possibilities for business expansion and gives investors great diversity in options. Additionally, local leaders have coalesced around key growth areas including sustainable logistics, cyber security, air emissions and environmental technology, and advanced manufacturing creating a welcome environment for businesses seeking to relocate to Southern California and grow their business.”

Interested businesses are invited to join the upcoming webinar series: 

  • April 7th: Opportunity Zones for Expanding Businesses
  • April 14th: Opportunity Zones, A Founder’s Perspective Raising Funds
  • April 21th: Inland Empire Innovation Ecosystem Report Launch 
  • April 28th: Opportunity Zones, Developer Roundtable

RSVP for any of the webinars here: https://www.opportunityriverside.com/news/march-21-newsletter

*Information within does not constitute tax or legal advice. Please consult with your tax advisor for specific advice.*

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

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Saybridge Technologies’ Board of Directors Announces Byron J. Paul as CEO

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The SyBridge Technologies’ Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Byron J. Paul has joined SyBridge Technologies (“SyBridge” or the “Company”) as Chief Executive Officer and will also serve as a member of the Board of Directors.  Mr. Paul will build upon the Company’s strategic vision of becoming a global technological leader in value-added design and manufacturing solutions ranging from design and prototyping to production-as-a-service and aftermarket services for customers.  Mr. Paul brings extensive experience in industrial technology and a 20+ year track record of driving profitable growth in complex, global enterprises.

Mr. Paul was most recently Group President at Signode Industrial Group where he led a global portfolio of businesses focused on end-of-line packaging technologies and warehouse automation solutions.  He previously served as President of Destaco, a leading designer and manufacturer of precision engineered components for industrial automation and robotics applications. Mr. Paul has also held senior leadership roles at John Crane, a leader in rotating equipment solutions, and at the Boston Consulting Group.  Mr. Paul holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He also attended the University of Western Australia where he earned a Bachelor of Commerce with first class honors in accounting and finance.

Mr. Paul stated, “I am thrilled to be joining a world-class team at SyBridge Technologies. They have done an outstanding job expanding SyBridge Technologies’ global reach, growing from three sites in 2019 to 16 locations today. I look forward to partnering with the Board and Crestview Partners as we embark on the next phase of growth to build an unrivaled leader in digital manufacturing.”

Jason Luo, Chairman of SyBridge Technologies and Crestview Operating Executive noted, “Byron is a committed leader with a proven track record of successfully growing businesses and we are excited to partner with him as we plan to execute on the Company’s next chapter of growth.”

Mr. Paul succeeds Tony Nardone who has departed the company to pursue other interests. “We appreciate the many contributions Tony has made to SyBridge and wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Mr. Luo.

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Tips on Accessing Capital as an Under-resourced Small Business Owner

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Interview with Peter E. Jackson, MBA, Vice President, Sr. Business Consultant at J.P. Morgan Chase

By Josaline Cuesta, California Program Director, Small Business Majority

Entrepreneurship is essential to a thriving and equitable economy. Yet, too many of our smallest businesses—especially those owned by people of color, women, rural business owners, and other under-resourced communities—face significant hurdles in accessing capital from banks and other traditional financial institutions.

Small Business Majority prides itself on partnering with experts in the field to mitigate the unnecessary impacts of inequitable access to capital and help to break down systematic barriers.

Peter E. Jackson, MBA is Vice President, Sr. Business Consultant at J.P. Morgan Chase. His work in California has been integral to creating pathways for minority and women entrepreneurs to access capital successfully. I sat down with Peter for a Q&A to discuss his experiences, share his expertise and tips, and learn more about expanded opportunities for capital in a unique community.

Do you believe there is a barrier to accessing responsible capital for small business owners? If yes, do you believe that a certain group of small business owners are more susceptible to experiencing challenges? Why?

From where I sit, one of the biggest hurdles facing minority small businesses is access to financial education. Many Black and Latino business owners we work with through the Chase mentorship program, believe it or not, cite access to education as their top need, e.g., understanding working capital, credit readiness, financial planning, managing debt and cash flow, etc. Working knowledge of these principles is the foundation of building a small business. That means having your bookkeeping and financial operations to help you make your best case when seeking funding/capital from any lender. Not having this in order may delay any financing for your business. There are also questions to ask yourself, e.g. ‘Am I in a healthy financial position to pay back a loan or is a bank loan the right financing option for my business needs at this time?’ This is where a banking relationship or banker can come in handy.

Often, minority entrepreneurs may not have had the best relationship with a bank or may not have had a parent or close individual to seek guidance from related to entrepreneurship – the list goes on. The pandemic exacerbated many of the underlying racial disparities that already existed in the U.S., including the banking system. As a firm, we recognize these challenges and do everything we can to address them.

In 2020, JPMorgan Chase announced a $30 billion racial equity commitment to create an inclusive economic recovery and help Black and Latino small businesses, families, and local communities create and sustain generational wealth. We’re creating the infrastructure to help more minority-owned businesses grow and recover through new programs, products, and hiring. This service is free, and business owners do not have to be Chase customers to receive coaching and mentorship.

Information about the JP Morgan Chase Minority Owned – Business Program is available at: https://www.chase.com/es/business/minority-businesses

What stories have you heard about the ease of accessing capital for small business owners? Can you please share a few typical challenges and some success stories? Did any success stories involve innovation? Did owners have to think outside the box to gain continued access to capital?

Yes, thinking out of the box is an everyday part of what we as Sr. Business Consultants do. Every business owner comes from a different place financially and operates their business differently. An example of this was a local smoothie bar owned by a Latina entrepreneur in Fontana, California. I discussed her goals and challenges, and she needed to obtain a small working capital loan to hire a part-time employee to extend her business hours and add signage. I helped her calculate and understand her break-even to determine the right price she needed to charge for her product to be able to pay for an additional employee and add a sign to the front of her store. This was important because she established new sales goals to drive more revenue. Also, the loan underwriter could see her business now had sufficient income capacity to borrow and pay back a loan by charging enough to support the loan payment. Business owners often borrow without a plan to demonstrate they can repay the loan or without consulting their CPA to ensure they leave enough money in their business to borrow. Part of my role is to help small business owners understand their business finances and how to leverage them to scale and grow their businesses.

What are some ways to increase small business funding to expand access to capital?

From JPMorgan Chase’s standpoint, here’s what we are doing to expand access to capital for underrepresented communities. We have committed $396 million (page 23-25) in small business philanthropy to grow Black, Hispanic and women-owned small businesses and create a more inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • ~$42.5 million to expand the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund (EOCF) in more U.S. cities, the program will offer low-cost loans and technical assistance to small businesses through LISC and CFDI network
  • Philanthropic investments to build the capacity of diverse-led nonprofits across the globe and support the signature Ascend Program
  • Policy solutions through the JPMorgan Chase Policy Center to improve U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) program to better meet the needs of minority- and women-owned small businesses.

Within Business Banking, we plan to provide an additional 15,000 loans -totaling $2 billion- to small businesses in majority-Black, -Hispanic and Latino communities over the next five years. To further expand access to credit to minority business owners, we’re:

  • Exploring targeted adjustments to how the firm evaluates credit applications
  • Introducing new products, including a digital lending platform, to better support the needs of small Black, Hispanic and Latino-owned businesses seeking quick access to capital.

What are some of your recommended, trusted community resources or training opportunities within the Inland Empire that will help with understanding ways to access legitimate capital?

  • Mentorship, dedicated coaching, and education are critical to helping people get credit ready. Look into Chase’s 1:1 coaching for minority entrepreneurs across 21 U.S. cities, where they work with a senior business consultant to help them scale. Visit www.chase.com/businessconsultant to learn more.
  • Visit the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE), an SBDC program within California State University, San Bernardino, which delivers a wide range of programs, technical assistance, and services to existing small business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs in the community. Every state has a small business development center offered through U.S. SBA and colleges/universities.
  • Lastly, I think AmPac, UCR, and the University of La Verne also have some of the strongest community resources that speak to access to capital, readiness, training, grant programs, microfinancing, etc.

Peter will join other financial experts for a Small Business Majority hosted event on September 14, 5:30pm PT. “Breaking Barriers: Accessing capital as women business owners of color” is a free event to learn tips for remaining resilient in business and how to navigate non-predatory debt financing options that will help grow or strengthen your woman-owned small business to help build generational wealth.

Register for this event here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/breaking-barriers-accessing-capital-as-women-business-owners-of-color-registration-393175316957

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Stater Bros. Markets Appoints Rebecca Calvin to Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

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Stater Bros. Markets is pleased to announce the appointment of Rebecca Calvin to the role of Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, due to the upcoming retirement of the company’s well-respected and current Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Dennis McIntyre. She will report to Chief Executive Officer Pete Van Helden and serve on the company’s Executive Leadership Team. She will begin her new role on Monday, September 26, 2022.

Calvin will lead the company’s marketing efforts which include the Sales and Merchandising, Integrated Marketing, eCommerce, and Food Strategy and Innovation departments. She will be responsible for strengthening Stater Bros.’ ability to meet the evolving needs of grocery shoppers in the diverse Southern California market through smart and effective product, pricing, and promotion strategies.

“I am very excited that Rebecca has chosen to join the Stater Bros. team and I look forward to working side-by-side with her to make Stater Bros. the premier shopping destination for groceries in Southern California,” said Stater Bros. CEO Pete Van Helden. “On behalf of all our teammates, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Dennis for nearly 45 years of dedicated service to our company. His passion and enthusiasm have made a significant impact on the current and future success of Stater Bros.”

Calvin arrives at Stater Bros. with several years of experience in the grocery industry, most recently serving as Senior Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer at The Save Mart Companies, where she led merchandising, space planning, pricing and promotion execution, and their private label program. Before joining The Save Mart Companies, she began her career in the grocery industry with Daymon Worldwide as a category buyer. She served as Vice President of Grocery, Frozen, and Dairy at Mariano’s before continuing on to merchandising and category management roles in the Kroger family of companies.

Calvin graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology with a Minor in Business Administration and is a graduate of the Cornell University Food Executive Program. She has earned a Six Sigma Green Belt Certification and currently serves on the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) Board of Directors. Earlier this year, Calvin was recognized as one of Retail Today’s “50 Outstanding Women in Retail.”

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