Opportunity zones focus of Friday event hosting President Trump

Opportunity zones focus of Friday event hosting President Trump

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - At Friday’s Opportunity Now Summit at Central Piedmont Community College, which President Donald Trump spoke at, national, state and local leaders focused on opportunity zones.

There are 17 opportunity zones in Charlotte, meant to use tax incentives to help under-served communities.

Prior to President Trump’s speech, leaders met in sessions throughout the morning to discuss how to make these zones beneficial in the community.

“There’s a need to connect with different partners who may or may not agree with some of these things, but it’s really important to bridge across differences,” Terik Tidwell with Johnson C. Smith Univeristy said Friday.

As some people are critics of opportunity zones in the community, saying they accelerate gentrification in those areas, others, including those working at Historically Black Colleges and Universities are working to help make them beneficial, including Johnson C Smith University, and the seven other HBCU’s in the state in opportunity zones.

Some met at one of the Opportunity Now sessions, ahead of the president’s speech, discussing strategies.

“Working with philanthropic capital, and working with investors to look at, this is what we can do to create community prosperity,” Tidwell says.

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President Trump is supporting opportunity zones across the country, telling the crowd Friday, he believes they bring financially stability.

“Opportunity zones… they’re the hottest thing you’ve seen,” he told the crowd.

Trump brought Tony Rankin on stage, a formerly homeless veteran who got a job in Cincinnati, working construction on projects being built in opportunity zones, there.

“The people in the community take care of the things they have better,” Rankin said. “Because there’s an opportunity to go on and grow.”

His boss says his company is bringing its first project to North Carolina, a place for veterans to live in Charlotte, in an opportunity zone on East Independence Boulevard.

“176 units, and we’re going to focus on housing veterans only there, actually,” Travis Steffens of R Investments says.

Steffens says his company is working to close on the land for that project in about 45 days.

Advocates say if done right, these opportunity zones can bring jobs, reduce homelessness and revitalize communities.

“There is some opportunity to have some kind of community impact,” Tidwell says.

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