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Community Development Supports Opportunity Appalachia

The Richmond Fed took part in a two-day investor convening hosted by Opportunity Appalachia to connect high-impact projects in Central Appalachian Opportunity Zones with private and public investors. The goal was to encourage funding partnerships that foster the creation of jobs and business development in the West Virginia, Virginia and Ohio Appalachian regions. The projects also had the option of being reviewed by the Richmond Fed’s Investment Connection program, which included participation from the Bank’s Supervision, Regulation and Credit division.

Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin joined several others in delivering opening remarks during the Feb. 23–24 event, which also received support from Appalachian Community Capital, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Barkin applauded the goals of the program.

“Access to capital really matters, and it really matters to small towns,” Barkin said. “Programs like Opportunity Zones, while not a silver bullet, are still a valuable enticement for funders who might otherwise overlook a good opportunity. Investment gives people something to brag about – something to sell to employers and to talent. It brings local leadership together. The act of preparing and winning a pitch reverberates for years. Success breeds success, and leaders win together, work better together going forward.”

Community Development Regional Manager Tiffany Hollin-Wright facilitated a panel discussion in which professionals with expertise in Opportunity Zones discussed how such entities have been leveraged across the nation and how those efforts can be modeled in Central Appalachia.

“The Federal Reserve encourages this type of investment when it qualifies through the Community Reinvestment Act, or CRA,” Hollin-Wright said. “Funding and finance initiatives like Opportunity Appalachia can also help meet the needs of distressed and underserved people in rural communities.”

The Opportunity Zone tax incentive is a community investment tool established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that provides tax incentives to encourage long-term investment in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide. Federal agencies have been directed to prioritize support to Opportunity Zone communities.

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