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 Regional Chamber of Commerce to Lead California Delegation at GITEX GLOBAL 2023 in Dubai
Fostering Technological Synergy: Bridging the Tech Gap with Global Partners
Demonstrating the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce’s (IERCC) commitment to global tech collaboration and innovation, the organization will lead a California delegation to the world-renowned GITEX GLOBAL event in Dubai from October 16-20, 2023. Though the original invitation extended to IERCC’s President & CEO, Mr. Edward Ornelas, Jr., he will not be in attendance. Instead, the California delegation will be spearheaded by the Chamber’s newly-appointed CTO, Mr. Gabriel Rangel.
Organized by the Dubai World Trade Centre, GITEX GLOBAL 2023 promises to be grander than ever. The event is set to host over 6,000 exhibiting companies and startups, drawing more than 170,000 tech and business executives from over 170 countries. The mega-event will sprawl across 41 vast halls and, for the first time ever, will be held at two prominent venues – the iconic Dubai World Trade Centre and the new Dubai Harbour for Expand North Star, making it the host for the world’s largest startup event.
Mr. Edward Ornelas, Jr. commented, “While I regret not attending GITEX personally, I am proud to have Mr. Rangel at the helm of this effort. I’m confident that our delegation will foster new collaborations and present the Golden State as a tech powerhouse.”
This year’s conference adopts the compelling theme of “The Year to Imagine AI in Everything”. Attendees are poised to witness the grandest showcase of AI tech giants and industry frontrunners. Additionally, it promises to kindle profound dialogues and debates concerning the socio-economic implications of burgeoning AI technology.
“Leading the California delegation at GITEX offers us an unmatched platform to nurture and solidify relationships with global tech partners,” said Mr. Gabriel Rangel, CTO of IERCC. “As the technology landscape continues to evolve, it’s critical for us to be a part of these international collaborations. I’m honored to spearhead this mission on behalf of the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce.”
An integral part of the California delegation, Mr. Ram Thanapandian, Principal Technology Consultant to the State of California and Chair of CA State Treasurer Fiona Ma’s Technical Advisory Commission, will be present, providing invaluable insights and representing the State of California Treasurer’s Office.
IERCC’s leadership in organizing this delegation underscores the crucial role that California plays in the global tech ecosystem and mirrors Dubai’s ambitious vision as encapsulated in the Dubai Economic Agenda (D33). This strategy aims to substantially expand Dubai’s economic landscape in the upcoming decade, securing its stature among the world’s leading global cities.
Trixie LohMirmand, Executive Vice President of the Dubai World Trade Centre and CEO of KAOUN International, remarked on the invaluable contributions the California delegation will bring to the event. She looks forward to an event marked by knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and pioneering discussions.
For additional information on GITEX GLOBAL 2023, please refer to: GITEX 2023 Preview.
Economist Christopher Thornberg, State Treasurer Fiona Ma Headline New Forecast Conference
Coming October 5th
Economic Horizon 2024: What Lies Ahead?
The Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with Beacon Economics and the County of San Bernardino, is thrilled to announce that the anticipated economic forecast conference, Economic Horizon 2024: What Lies Ahead, Inland Empire? will be held October 5th from 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM at the El Prado Golf Courses in the vibrant city of Chino, California.
Esteemed economist, Dr. Christopher Thornberg will present complete outlooks for the U.S., California, and Inland Empire economies. “The Inland Empire stands at the crossroads of remarkable economic opportunities and challenges,” said Thornberg. “I’m excited to unpack the trends and shifts that will define the region’s economic landscape in the next year, and beyond.”
Known for his razor-sharp observations, and fun, energized delivery, Thornberg’s presentation will include pointed discussions about inflation, the Fed’s next move, housing markets, strengths and instabilities in the economy, and what current trends mean for the nation, state, and local region.
The conference will also be graced by the insights of California State Treasurer Fiona Ma as keynote speaker. In her words, “The strength of California’s economy is deeply interwoven with the growth trajectories of its regions. The Inland Empire, with its dynamism and resilience, is a testament to this synergy. I am honored to join ‘Economic Horizon 2024’ and share a vision where policies, partnerships, and potentials converge to elevate the Inland Empire to unprecedented economic heights.”
“This conference is a testament to the collaborative spirit of the Inland Empire and our commitment to fostering a robust, resilient economy,” said Edward Ornelas, Jr., President of the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Our partnership with Beacon Economics and the County of San Bernardino aims to offer a platform for profound economic discussion, forecasting, and strategic future planning.”
Attendees can anticipate not only expert insights into the economy but also networking opportunities and a chance to connect with key business, government, and nonprofit leaders from across the region.
Full event details are available at: economy.iechamber.org
Webb Investments acquires Silver Creek Industries, an industry leader in modular construction for schools
Webb Investments today announced the launch of a new company, Silver Creek Modular, after acquiring the assets of Silver Creek Industries, a highly respected modular construction company known for bringing innovative, sustainable and cost-effective solutions to the education industry.
Silver Creek Industries’ existing business, including its employees and its Perris, Calif., manufacturing facility, will remain with the new company, with Webb providing the investment capital, resources and expertise to enhance Silver Creek’s presence in the modular construction marketplace.
The acquisition closed in June of 2023, following Silver Creek Industries’ Chapter 11 filing in the Central Bankruptcy Court of California.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring Silver Creek into our family business, and look forward to building on our shared commitment to improving educational opportunities within communities across our region,” said Kiana Webb, CEO of Webb Family Enterprises. “This acquisition aligns with our strategy to invest in established firms that can help us drive community revitalization and inclusive growth, while improving quality of life and increasing economic output.”
Silver Creek Industries was founded in 2004 and has completed more than 1,000 projects in the education, commercial, medical, military, government and multi-family housing markets. More recently, the company’s focus has been on providing high-quality, sustainable modular buildings for schools and educational institutions. Silver Creek Industries is well known for delivering projects on time and on budget, with minimal disruption to school and the community.
Webb Investments is a privately held, family-owned company focusing on creating a community development ecosystem that drives inclusive, organic growth and transforms the areas they serve.
For more information on Webb Investments, please visit webbinvestments.com.
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