Opportunity Zone Businesses Receive Key Support in Riverside County
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:
- You make your business more attractive to potential outside investors and can seek investments (tax incentivized investment opportunity)
- 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)
- You have your own capital gains and want to invest them into your business and receive tax benefits (invest in yourself)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)*
- 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)*
- 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:
- Be located in one of the 49 Opportunity Zone census tracts in the county
- 70% of tangible property owned or leased must be located within the zones and acquired after December 2017
- 50% of total gross income must be derived from active business conducted in the zones
- 40% of intangible property must be used in the zones
- Additional tests for Non Qualified Financial Property (e.g. stocks, bonds, and long-term notes) and sin businesses apply
- Additional tests for timeliness of use of funds and working capital safe harbors apply
- 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.*
Inland Empire job market fully recovered from pandemic as supply chain employment continues to grow
The Inland Empire job market recovered faster than anywhere in Southern California, with payrolls and a labor force climbing above pre-pandemic levels, according to a new economic report.
The report, released Thursday by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) as part of its 13th Annual Southern California Economic Summit, documents San Bernardino and Riverside Counties’ growth as a global supply chain hub, adding 63,700 jobs in transportation, warehousing and wholesale trade since shortly before the pandemic. Other major employment gains have been reported in leisure and hospitality, which has fully recovered from its early pandemic losses and is up 17,600 jobs year-over-year, and the government sector, up 9,400 jobs year-over-year.
“Barring a recession, the Inland Empire labor markets will continue to perform well,” said Dr. Manfred Keil, Chief Economist for the Inland Empire Economic Partnership. “Clearly, the two-county region’s role in the supply chain is driving much of this, though sustaining growth in the long-term would benefit from prioritizing a diverse range of industries.”
Keil is part of a new Economic Roundtable convened by the SCAG – which hosted the Summit in downtown Los Angeles – to provide both a snapshot of the region now as well as a preview of economic opportunities and challenges ahead. Their research was compiled in a report that offered caution on turbulence ahead from global forces, but also promise that Southern California is better positioned than other regions to withstand it.
Among the factors that could moderate the impacts of a possible recession across the six-county SCAG region:
- Continued growth in core industries, such as information, logistics and tourism
- Measurable increases in labor productivity in 2022
- New development and construction in infrastructure and housing, both public and private
- Household debt and real estate values that are less likely to decline than elsewhere
“With improvements in the global inflation picture, combined with continuing 2022’s positive momentum, the region’s economy raises hopes that the much-anticipated global recession of 2023 will not severely impact Southern California,” said Dr. Gigi Moreno, Senior Economist at SCAG.
However, threats do remain. In the Inland Empire, housing affordability and rising interest rates are among the biggest challenges. Even as home sales have fallen for the past 15 months, higher prices and mortgage rates have reduced affordability by one-third, Keil said.
“Housing affordability becomes an even bigger issue as more and more people move to the IE, forcing prices up even higher,” Keil said, noting studies that have shown the Inland Empire among the fastest-growing population centers in the country.
Click here for the complete Southern California Economic Update.
From Goats to Soaps
An Inland Empire small business journey to responsible, clean beauty products
By Jessica Anguiano, Southern California Outreach Manager, Small Business Majority
Of all the ways of starting a new business, one that included the purchase of a Nigerian dwarf goat named Barnaby was not on the mind of Michele Jimenez. As the owners of a ranch in Riverside, Michele and her husband wanted to teach their five young daughters about caring for and raising farm animals, and Barnaby would be a perfect way to do just that.
After learning about an Inland Empire 4-H youth development and mentoring organization, Michele enrolled her daughters, ages 2 to 15, to learn about responsibilities and appreciation for nature. During the training, the young girls focused on agricultural project-based learning and chose to launch a dairy goat breeding program as their project. But after their goat population began to grow, they faced an unimaginable challenge: what to do with 3-5 gallons of milk per goat on a daily basis?
The children were quick to propose an avenue: cook and create recipes with goat milk. The idea seemed simple at the time, but they soon realized that goat food products are an acquired taste–which meant this wasn’t a recipe for success. By this time, the COVID-19 pandemic had paralyzed businesses in Riverside, and like everyone else, Michele’s daughters followed lockdown protocols and stayed home. Michele and her daughters began making soap with goat milk at home with not much to do and nearly 30 goats in stock.
At first, they gave away the soap to friends and family to see how their prospective customers would respond to this new product. And then after only [est. time], the Jimenez Sisters Ranch business was up and running, full steam ahead.
The family-owned small business exemplifies the core values of the Jimenez family: resilience, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and a fond appreciation for eco-friendly, socially responsible, and ethically sourced practices and products. In addition to stylish apparel and accessories, the Jimenez sisters sell handcrafted goat milk soaps, lotions, and creams to consumers and wholesale retailers throughout California and across Wisconsin, North Carolina, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Washington.
“My daughters have been the face of the Jimenez Sisters Ranch since its inception. I’ve encouraged them to take an active role in the business, despite their age. They deserve a seat at the table and I believe they can confidently shape their future as entrepreneurs,” said mom Michele. “Small business ownership comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities and for us, it has turned into a new source of income, inspiration and a great way to start building generational wealth.”
As the Jimenez family continues to navigate business ownership and with plans of scaling up, they are actively looking for ways to lower prices on low-volume purchases and sourcing raw materials ahead of the holiday season. Michele says, “We’re a solutions-oriented business, so we’re networking and connecting with leaders in the industry to get us in the front door. Although our competitors are beauty industry giants, we know what we offer and what sets us apart–our clean, beauty products.” This holiday season and ahead of Small Business Saturday, the Jimenez Sisters Ranch is offering a 25% discount on storewide buttercream purchases through the Small Business Majority’s holiday gift guide.
With the support of their community and peers, Michele and her family have made a number of appearances on TalkShopLive, a live streaming, social buying, and selling platform. By showcasing her small business on this platform, Michele hopes to reach more customers to eventually set up her business as an international exporter. She believes in the power of supporting women’s entrepreneurship, which is why she’s advocated and spotlighted the need for funding Women’s Business Centers. Michele explains, “these centers provide the tools and resources that entrepreneurs like my daughters and I require to scale up businesses and are an important source of community building.
20 Years of Spirit in the Making
Inland Empire visionaries, innovators, problem solvers, and risk-takers have been celebrated center-stage at the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards black-tie gala for two decades.
The Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards recognizes the accomplishments and resilience of local entrepreneurs who have strived to build businesses into major contributors to the Inland Empire’s economy. The program was founded in 2003 by Mike Stull, Director of the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) at California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB), and in the years since, more than 200 entrepreneurs have been honored with a Spirit of the Entrepreneur Award.
The IECE, established in 1999, has always been ahead of the curve and launched the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards eight years before President Barack Obama designated November as National Entrepreneurship Month in the United States. Dr. Mike Stull came up with the idea for the awards shortly after becoming director of IECE, when he discovered students in the CSUSB Entrepreneurship program couldn’t name any local entrepreneurial role models.
“Similarly, in my many conversations with leaders in the community, none could cite successful entrepreneurs that were key drivers to the local economy,” Stull said. “To me, this represented a significant gap — we have many successful entrepreneurs in the region, and our students and community leaders needed to know who they were. Thus, I endeavored to bring an event to life that would celebrate and honor local entrepreneurs in a format that would be inspiring, fun, and entertaining. Hollywood had the Academy Awards, so why couldn’t we have a similar event focused on entrepreneurs!”
The annual Spirit of the Entrepreneur black-tie awards program — held this year on November 17 at the Riverside Convention Center — starts with networking receptions, where mingling can often lead to deal-making. The main event is a mix of entertainment, with performances by acclaimed musicians and performers, heartfelt acceptance speeches from featured award recipients from categories such as General Entrepreneur, Service-based Entrepreneur, Social Entrepreneur, Emerging Entrepreneur, and The Mary Anne Fox Top Female Entrepreneur of the Year. At the end of the program, one recipient will also receive the Best of the Best Award, sponsored by Best Best & Krieger LLP. This honor goes to the person who best exemplifies what it means to be an entrepreneur.
“We come up with award categories in two ways,” Stull said. “First, over the 20 years of the program, we have developed a large number of standard categories that capture just about every type or industry represented in the region. Second, each year we carefully review all the submitted nominee profiles and adjust or add award categories as appropriate. For example, in recent years we have added a Healthcare Entrepreneur category, and in some years we have so many great manufacturing company nominees that we segment them by focus area, such as consumer products manufacturing and industrial manufacturing.”
In order to be nominated, a person must meet two requirements: they need to have been in business for at least two years and have a minimum annual revenue of $400,000. Beyond that, they should be an innovator with a solid character known for having an entrepreneurial mindset and a record of strong leadership and performance. Judges, who are selected based on their business experience and integrity, work independently of one another to evaluate the nominees, with almost all being previous winners of a Spirit of the Entrepreneur Award.
Several notable names have received the signature Spirit Award — Garner Holt, founder of Garner Holt Productions, the late Stater Bros. CEO Jack Brown, and the late Baker’s Burgers founder Neal Baker all were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Looking back on the last 20 years, Stull has countless fond memories of ceremonies past, including performances by Eddie Money and Troy Clarke & His Big Band Orchestra, but his favorite just might be when Holt was recognized with this Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. “We completely surprised him, and his emotional speech was one for the ages,” Stull said.
When the winners are revealed, Stull hopes they feel “all the great positive emotions at once. Surprise, joy, excitement, happiness, pride, gratitude — all those we tend to see from the moment their name is announced to the completion of their acceptance speech. It gives us no greater satisfaction than to see entrepreneurs be overwhelmed at that moment and realize that their hard work and commitment are being recognized in front of their families, team members, the business community, and their peer entrepreneurs. As one past award recipient told me, ‘Mike, this is the pat on the back and recognition that we hardly ever get as entrepreneurs.'”
To celebrate the 20th anniversary, there will be a few surprises during this year’s ceremony, with the biggest being the announcement of the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Legacy Awards. Two previous Spirit of the Entrepreneur Award recipients — one from the first ten years, and one from the second — will be selected by a judging panel for this special, one-time-only honor.
“The Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards has reached an incredible milestone, and we hope that everyone comes out to join the celebration,” Stull said. “Our last full-scale event prior to the pandemic had over 1,000 attendees, so we’d love to see a record turnout in 2022.” Starting with the very first ceremony in 2003, “the event wouldn’t be possible without the incredible nominations we get each year, and of course, the fantastic support we get from our sponsors,” Stull added. “We have nine sponsors that have supported us for more than 10 years, and two that have been with us for 16 of our 20 years.”
The Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards isn’t solely about recognizing the ingenuity of Inland Empire business leaders. Proceeds from the event go to the IECE’s Spirit of the Entrepreneur Scholarship Fund, which provides grants to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Since 2003, more than $225,000 worth of scholarships have been awarded to CSUSB students with measurable needs who are studying entrepreneurship.
CSUSB students also have the opportunity to participate in the Garner Holt Student Fast Pitch Competition. Every year, the IECE holds this innovative semi-final qualifying competition at the event’s named sponsor’s headquarters – Garner Holt Productions a week prior to the Spirit Awards gala. Up to 15 student entrepreneurs have the chance to give a 90-second pitch of their business idea to local investors. The students are judged by the panel, and the top five student pitchers move on to the finals at the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards. There, they deliver their pitches in front of the live audience, where the audience will vote to determine the winner who will receive the $4,000 cash prize. In years past, students who presented especially impressive pitches have dazzled investors in the crowd and secured funding for their ventures.
Purva Taur is a graduate assistant at IECE and enrolled in the Master of Science Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MSEI) program at CSUSB. An international student from India, Taur grew up in a family where many of her relatives owned businesses, and she knew that one day, she would follow in their footsteps. By working at the IECE with Stull and Assistant Director Stacey Allis, Taur has already noticed a change in how she approaches situations.
“I’ve learned how to be on my toes all the time,” she said. “If there’s a problem, you have to be quick with a solution and back up.” Taur is now working on a business plan to present in front of investors and feels that the comprehensive education she is receiving will give her a boost over her peers. “Being in this program has given me a lot of confidence that not every 22-year-old would have to begin their start-up, or any business,” she said. “I’ve learned how important it is to cultivate your business mindset.”
While Taur is preparing to launch her career, one CSUSB student-led venture named AxoTech is already commercializing technology developed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona.
“The company is innovating the diagnostic technology space, and is currently a part of the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) Foundry program,” Stull said. “Overall, the impact to the region is tangible — over 40 percent of our more than 1,000 entrepreneurship alumni have created one or more ventures since graduation, and a large number of our graduates are intrapreneurs: managers and leaders in existing organizations who are innovative changemakers.”
IECE HAS IMPACT
The IECE has been leading the charge since it first opened its doors at CSUSB, with the mission of inspiring, developing, and nurturing up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the Inland Empire. It is the largest organization in the region supporting small business and entrepreneurial growth, and its staff is there every step of the way as people learn the ins and outs of starting and running a business, meeting with investors, finding mentors, and developing business models.
“We have an incredible team of professionals in the IECE — more than 60 — that are in the community every day having an impact on startup and existing companies,” Stull said. “The IECE has been recognized many times for its growth and impact, most recently by AACSB International, the accreditation body for business schools worldwide, as a Top 35 Program for Fostering Entrepreneurship and Innovation.”
There is always something in the works at the IECE, and in 2021, the center collaborated with the CSUSB School of Entrepreneurship to produce the region’s first-ever State of Entrepreneurship Report, which examined the trends and challenges of entrepreneurship in the Inland Empire. This year, the IECE has launched several new initiatives, including the Catapult Business Growth Network. Over the course of this intensive six-session program, entrepreneurs learn how to position their businesses for measurable growth.
The IECE is a driving force behind the economic expansion in the Inland Empire, and the proof is in the numbers — through its counseling, mentoring, and training programs, the IECE has served more than 150,000 entrepreneurs, supported the creation and retention of nearly 40,000 jobs, assisted with the startup of almost 2,000 new ventures, and had an economic impact in excess of $400 million.
“We are very proud that the IECE has grown to become one of the largest university-based Centers for Entrepreneurship in the world,” Stull said. “Since entrepreneurship is such an important driver of our local economy, having such a vibrant and impactful program such as the IECE is critical to supporting local businesses and their startup and growth.”
Business Journal Newsletter
Business12 months ago
Business Activity Continues To Surge In The Inland Empire; Growth Will Moderate Now That Region Has Surpassed Pre-Pandemic Levels
Commercial Real Estate Transactions8 months ago
SRS’ Investment Properties Group Brokers $35 Million Sale of Major Portion of One Eleven La Quinta Center, a 154,383-SF Retail Community Center in La Quinta, CA
Career & Workplace8 months ago
Worker Shortage Holding Back Full Job Recovery in California’s Major Metros
Business12 months ago
Sunitha Reddy, Prime Healthcare VP of Operations, Named to Modern Healthcare’s Top Emerging Leaders List
Technology12 months ago
Charter Communications Launches Spectrum Internet 100
Government & Regulations11 months ago
San Manuel Elects Lynn Valbuena as Chairwoman
You must be logged in to post a comment Login