Originally published by Colorado Municipal League in Knowledge Now Opportunity Zones, March 2019
BULLISH ON OPPORTUNITY
By Jeff Layman, Silt town administrator
When I arrived on the scene as Silt’s interim administrator in May 2018, I had never heard of an “Opportunity Zone,” much less knew anything about how to coax it to yield economic development benefits for a small municipality. Luckily, Silt’s staff had completed the application paperwork and provided appropriate follow-up information enough to be included as one of Colorado’s 126 Opportunity Zones (OZ).
As I learned more about this “opportunity,” I realized how stimulating it could potentially be for Silt should we possess the kind of assets and ventures that would kindle the interest of investors. Rarely does such a prospect come around.
At statewide conferences on OZs, I learned that “urgency” is the watchword, since the maximum investment benefit will diminish after 2019. We were told that quickly developing a “community investment prospectus” is one important step in attracting investment. It seemed important for Silt to be represented on the state website as soon as possible to gain some early attention from investors.
The purpose of the prospectus is to advertise the OZ to regional and national investors, and provide investors with an understanding of infrastructure and pathways to development and to maximize investment potential for stakeholders. It also alerts investors to the fact that Silt has other existing economic development initiatives that may be leveraged for catalytic effect … not to mention Silt’s willingness to streamline commercial and industrial use processes.
While it is right for some municipalities to hire consultants and convene community meetings to define their qualities for the purpose of developing a prospectus, Silt decided to use staff knowledge and resources. It was after meeting with our experienced staff — some approaching 20 years of service, the mayor, and trustees that we decided to forgo the formality of public sessions prior to developing the prospectus. Our staff had virtually all the answers that a business or investor might need to move forward. We came to believe that there was some utility in being among the first to get the prospectus on the state’s website to be seen by investors and to make adjustments to the document as necessary.
As it turns out, we achieved our goal of being one of the first OZs on choosecolorado.com/opportunity-zones and we are now working on an interactive website that will link investors directly to investment opportunities in Silt. Additionally, we rolled out the prospectus at a Silt Board of Trustees work session in front of nearly 20 residents, business owners, developers, and others.
We have had some success in attracting attention — several phone calls from investors “kicking the tires” — but the work of coaxing real results is still before us. It will require an almost evangelical commitment to reach out to investors and to refine our message as we go so that the opportunities are well understood.
As Silt Mayor Keith Richel said, “With the national economy being healthy and Colorado’s population growth, we believe Silt is poised to grow and develop positively, too.”
We are poised to capitalize on our Opportunity Zone designation and bullish on Silt’s future!