Erin:So, we wanted to make sure that our rural communities and midsize cities had a seat at the table. We know that it will be hard for them to attract investment or more difficult in some cases than our metro areas, but we believed strongly that they should have a seat at the table so that rural communities could also use this Opportunity Zone program to their advantage.
Announcer:As Deputy Chief of Staff for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, she was intimately involved in the process that designated Opportunity Zones. Now is the cofounder of Madison Street advisors. She guides clients through the maze of OZ restrictions and requirements. If anyone knows the ins and outs of navigating the Opportunity Zone program Erin Gillespie does. She's my guest on this episode of the OZExpo Podcast.
Announcer:Welcome to the OZExpo Podcast where we talk with the people who really know the Opportunity Zone market. From investors, fund managers and developers to tax experts, politicians, and attorneys. The most influential voices in the Opportunity Zone industry are here on the OZExpo Podcast.
Jack:Welcome back everybody to the OZExpo Podcast. I'm your host, Jack Heald. Joining me today is Erin Gillespie, who was the founder of Madison Street, Madison Street Strategies. I'm just not going to get it right one more time. Erin Gillespie, bounder Madison Street Strategies. Welcome, Erin. It's good to have you on the show.
Erin:Thanks so much for having me.
Jack:I always liked to find out a little bit about who the people are that I'm talking to. Very simple questions. Tell us about yourself. Who are you, where'd you come from? How'd you end up where you are?
Erin:Sure. Well, I'm originally from Alabama. I'm based in Florida now and I'm married with two kids, a nine and five year old little girl. And, um, my background is in media communications. I was a newspaper reporter, uh, two lifetimes ago. Then I worked in state government for over a decade and now I've joined the private sector and I work on economic development Opportunity Zones and disaster recovery for communities.
Jack:That's something, um, when I was reading about you that was really interested in the disaster recovery, there was a big long list of hurricanes. Talk about the disaster recovery work. That's just fascinating to me.
Erin:Sure. Um, so I was the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. And in my role there in leadership, we were in charge of private sector disaster recovery, so business and industry. Um, so whenever a hurricane was coming in Florida, and we've had four over the last three years, um, I would be in a state emergency operation center and my team would be answering phones from businesses and people who needed business. I needed groceries. Where's the grocery store that's open if a, uh, some kind of business seat and the generator, where can I get a generator in advance of a storm? So we stayed in the emergency operations center through the storm and as soon as the storm was over, we'd be on the streets in the community after the disaster trying to figure how to get businesses back open because we know that anytime a business can open in a community, that community can begin to recover.
Jack:In your role, was is it primarily an executive function? Was it a public relations function? Was a little bit of both,
Erin:A little bit of both. Uh, we, I actually was the Communications Director for the agency previously and most of my experience has been in media communications and crisis risk management in the emergency operations center. Everything is about implementation. What can you do to get a business back open? Um, a pharmacy needed to open. How do we find a house for a pharmacist who's coming in from another state to get in there and open a pharmacy so that people who have diabetes can get access to their medications that they don't have because the power's out. So it was very much about execution, figuring out how to get businesses up and running to start that recovery process for our community.
Jack:What are the key traits that somebody who's good in a communications role must possess?
Erin:Uh, you have to be able to talk.
Erin:First of all, that's the first one. Um, uh, I would say that's an interesting question. I'm not sure if I've ever had someone ask me exactly that. I would say you have to be able to communicate well, be able to talk, write. You know, all of that, um, uh, confidence. Be able to confidently say what you're doing, what, what's going on. And then for me, I was sort of an expert in crisis communications. I worked in various other state agencies, primarily for the Department of children and families where a crisis happens every day. So you have to be able to deal with the tough stuff, um, figure out a way to move forward and answer the community's questions when there are hard, hard questions to be asked and answered. And that's the same in a disaster when there's a disaster and governments out there responding, um, we have to be able to ask and answer those hard questions.
Jack:Well, I think any of us who've watched communications, people, particularly in government work over the years, we see those things in action. We see those, those types of abilities exercised. But I guess I'm interested more in what's going on between your ears. How are you processing these things and what is it that makes you and people like you able to do a job that you, you know, I talk, well, I'm, I'm pretty good at that. It's my job, but I can't imagine being in crisis communication. What's the difference? What's the thing that really makes a difference there?
Erin:Yeah, it's really interesting. Often say that I'm a translator and we can connect that back to Opportunity Zones in a bit as well. But um, when you're in crisis communications, you're trying to take facts, hopefully just facts and information and translate that to the public, to whoever your audience is to your employees. And so being able to quickly understand, synthesize information and then translate that back out. And I think to be honest, I mean that came from my background in journalism.
Erin:That's what we did every day is difficult, complicated, controversial crisis information and translate that out to the public. And so that was really the foundation for all of the work that I do today.
Jack:Where's your journalism work? Print or um, some sort of broadcast media. It was print, newspaper journalism. So you had this, you had time to sit and think when you were writing and, and yet in a crisis communication situation, are you, I guess you're answering questions live and responding as well, different set of skills?
Erin:Sure. I think preparation is key and that, and you know, again, translating that all the way through to what I do today. I mean being prepared, understanding what your audience is looking for, understanding what your, uh, what information you have they were able to give. And, and I'll say to be honest, I mean it's just a knack. I mean, some people are good at communications, right? And I can't do surgery and I can't do a, I can't be an astronaut, but this is the thing that I have the knack for.
Jack:All right. So let's, I have one more question I want to ask in regards to your work prior to Madison Street Strategies, which I'm sure it dovetails very well with Madison Street Strategies and that was your work, um, in the selection process for Florida's, what is it, 427 Opportunity Zones.
Jack:Tell us about that.
Erin:Sure. Um, so I was at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and for other states that sort of a combination of the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor, a little bit of Hud Housing and community development. Um, so we are in charge of community workforce and economic development for the state of Florida. And, uh, in my role there, um, I, I was in charge of special projects, pretty much anything that didn't fit one of the, um, traditional three silos, which are Economic Community and Workforce Development.
And so, um, when each governor had the chance to nominate 25% of estates, low income census tracks as an Opportunity Zone, um, our governor at the time, Governor Scott, who is now Senator Scott at the federal level, um, uh, delegated that task to our agency and I was put in charge of that project. And so, um, the team that I had working with me, a small team, but we did an economic analysis of the zones.
Um, Florida had a little over 1200 zones to choose from. We were able to pick 427 as our 25%. So we did an economic analysis, primarily focused on poverty rates and unemployment. Um, our previous governor, his focus was on job creation and employment. And so he wanted to make that a focus of the Opportunity Zones to make sure that we were picking those zones where unemployment was high so that we could ensure that we were helping people who needed it the most. Uh, so we did an economic analysis and then we overlaid that with requests.
We had more than 1200 requests for our 427 zones. And those came from everyone you can think of. Community leaders, mayors, city council's Chambers of Commerce, nonprofits, banks, investors, developers, legislators. Um, and so we overlaid those requests and we tried to really weigh what the community wanted the highest because we knew at the state level Florida is a large state and we knew that we didn't know every community best, that the cities and counties knew their community better than we did. And so they wanted a particular area to be a zone. Then we would ensure that area was picked if it fit the economic analysis that we had.
Jack:You got 1200 potential zones, 400 that were selected. That must've been an interesting process to tell somebody no.
Erin:So, we had quite a few requests as you can imagine. And I mean it was a collaborative process, I would say. Um, we had some counties who would send us every census track that was eligible and we would respond and we would say, this is wonderful. Thank you. We really appreciated the, the making sure that each community reached out. Um, but because the state could only pick 25% of the zones, total we would suggest that you limit your request to about 25% and rank them in order.
And so, what we tried to do is if we, if we had to tell someone no, we would try to get as many as we could, have them rank them. So we picked the ones that they truly wanted. And I would say overall, I mean there's a couple of, we did have some communities who just weren't interactive with us during the process.
It was a very short time frame. I think that's one area where Florida had a big difficulty. Some states only had 25 zones to pick. We had 427 and we pretty much all had the same timeframe. So that was difficult. But we did try, we tried not to say no. We tried to have communities rank their requests and then pick as many as we could. Um, there were certain communities who really felt strongly about a census tract.
In some cases, they weren't eligible tracks at all. You know, the Census Bureau gave down the original list of low income tracks to be eligible Florida did make a few policy calls. We, we ensured that every county has at least one zone. Um, and so there are several counties that only have one, uh, many counties have more than that. We allocated them proportionally by population. So Miami Dade County, which is our largest county by population, has 67 zones in the county.
But those zones are very small because census tracks, when you have a high population are very small in comparison. Our rural communities that may only have one census tract. In some cases that census track covers a half or three quarters of the county geographically. So, we wanted to make sure that our rural communities and midsize cities had a seat at the table.
We know that it will be hard for them to attract investment or more or more difficult in some cases than our metro areas, but we believe strongly that they should have a seat at the table so that rural communities could also use this Opportunity Zone program to their advantage.
Jack:You are now, you have now transitioned from the public sector to the private sector. Tell us about Madison Street Strategies, what your focus is and how you're serving the Opportunity Zone market.
Erin:Sure. Um, so my partner and I, we were both at the Department of Economic Opportunity and we were leaving the administration when the new governor came in. That's very common in Florida in Florida state government. And so we just sort of started looking at, you know, how can we continue doing the work that we love being on the ground in the communities across Florida. Helping communities access economic development tools. Um, how can we transition that to the private sector?
So, we decided to try, try to do it ourselves and we formed our company Madison Street Strategies and we are on the ground in communities every day helping them. We do a lot of disaster recovery work, other economic development work like grant applications for funding, whether that's from the state or the federal level, like the Department of Commerce or the Economic Development Administration. Uh, and then we work with Opportunity Zone, so we have been speaking all across the country.
We've held several conferences right here in Florida, workshops, really helping community leaders understand what they can do to drive investment. And the goal of our company on the Opportunity Zone side is to have a community driven vision that these need to be community led because the legislation gives really no specific role to state or local government on the Opportunity Zone program. We know that to be successful for community, to feel like the Opportunity Zone program was implemented in a successful way. You need that community input. Um, some communities will have no investment without a community driven approach and other communities will get a good bit of investment, but it might be sporadic or haphazard or not what the community needs. You know, if a community needs affordable housing but someone puts in a high end condo, that's not necessarily what that community needs. So all of those things are good.
You just want to make sure that the community and the investors are working together. And it's very beneficial to the investors too because one, they want to see that return on investment from this program and to anything that that a community can do to ease the path for an investor is going to make this program much more successful. I mean, we have cities where getting a change in permitting or zoning takes two years.
Erin:It's not going to help an opportunity. Yeah. That's not going to help an Opportunity Zone investor when they have a strict turnaround and deadlines where they have to deploy that capital. They need communities who are willing to work with them to make this a successful program. And so that's really what we're preaching across the state is how can communities drive investment, how can communities help investors and connecting those investors to the communities so that the vision can match up.
Jack:I think you've identified the outlines of some of the big problems. Go a little deeper. What are the significant hurdles this may need to… This may just require actual stories. Talk about some significant hurdles you've run into and how you at Madison Street Strategies are helping to circumvent or get around or over those.
Erin:I'll be honest, the first hurdle is just education. It's a brand new program. You know, we're, we're, what, a year and a half almost now, and I was speaking yesterday, I'm an Auburn, Alabama and Auburn Grad. And they asked me to come and speak at their Opportunity Zone conference. The first one that the state of Alabama has held for their communities on the campus of Auburn University. And, um, most of the people in the room had heard of Opportunity Zones.
But for, I would say 75% of the audience that was about what they knew. Um, even the 101, uh, you know, presentation was more than they had really been educated on before. And so what we're doing across Florida and some of the southeast is really just education. How do we bring that information to a community and say, here's what they are, here's how they work, here's, you know, here's what next steps you can do.
And we're doing that with, with local community leaders and also with local developers and investors. We see a huge gap where local developers who care about a community, they live here, their kids go to school here, they developed two or three or four projects a year. They've heard about this. And they want to develop four or five or six projects a year in their community if they can make the math work. And so educating those folks on what the steps are, how to make those relationships to, to figure out how to start a fund, how to invest in a fund, how to deploy your capital, doing some of that education is really the first, the largest gap. And then I think secondly, we see 'em rural communities, small rural communities that have very limited capacity for economic development. This is the same problem, right? They don't know where to start.
They don't have people sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for a new program to come down, right? Everyone has a job and they don't really have capacity to do anything about it. And on the other side of the equation, very large metro areas. For example, Miami Dade has 67 zones.
Well that's a lot to get your arms around. What do we do with 67 zones? That's like about 20 different municipalities in Miami Dade County. So you're looking at different city and county governments working together. Where we see a real sweet spot is sort of those mid size communities. Um, in Florida, Tallahassee, Fort Myers, we've seen some prospectus has come out. We've seen some community organizations coming together to talk about public, private partnerships. How do we push this vision forward? Um, and that's, uh, that's what we want to see every community do. And it's just very difficult.
Um, um, in smaller rural communities and in large metro areas that have a lot of zones to try to just figure out, you know, how do we form a coalition who leads the coalition, who pays the person who leads the coalition. So all of those questions that traditionally are problematic for local government, we see in the Opportunity Zone program because it's an exciting program, but there no funding attached to it. There's no capacity, there's no employee, who's going to run this program.
A community really has to appoint a leader and get behind it. And I tell communities they need at least two of the following things, time, energy and money to make this work. And they're going to have to find that somewhere to push a vision forward and draw and the investment that will make them feel like it's a successful program.
Jack:In some ways you're almost an evangelist.
Erin:Yeah. We're, we're translators and preachers for Opportunity Zones. That's correct.
Jack:Is your reach national, are you focusing primarily on Florida?
Erin:I would say primarily in Florida and the southeast. We have a lot of connections in Alabama and Georgia. And so we are working in some communities there, but we've also talked a Colorado has been very forward thinking and this program and so we're talking with some cities in Colorado about trying to work there. So wherever we see a community that has a proactive approach and we think that we may fit in, we're happy to. We'll, we'll come and go anywhere.
Jack:All right, so that's, that's the business side of, of Erin. Let's drill down a little bit into more about who you are and how you got here. You know, I've, I have to ask this question and I have yet to hear an answer. I've asked this many times and I have yet to hear an answer that makes a lick of sense. Is Auburn a freaking tiger or isn't it?
Erin:Is that that the hardest questions I will get today. So I have answered this question many times.
Jack:Gosh I wonder why. Well maybe you guys could make up your mind. I'm sorry.
Erin:No, it's okay. So we are the Auburn Tigers. So as a, as a noun you would say the Auburn Tigers, but the battle cry is War Eagle. And obviously they have a connection to eagles. They have a facility on site that rehabs eagles. They fly an eagle around over the field before the game. Um, and not that I want to compare us to Alabama because certainly we're not comparable to Alabama, University of Alabama, but they have a mascot, which is an elephant and they have a battle cry, which is Roll Tide as much like that. It's just that it's not two animals. So I think the two animal thing confuses people, but we are in fact the Auburn Tigers.
Jack:The only thing comparable that I run into, I went to Baylor and Baylor is the Bears. At Baylor there's a saying that, you know, we, we have an annual bicycle race, so it's called Bear Downs. And we say “bear down” kind of as a verb for, you know, “fight hard.” Well, I moved out to Arizona and the Arizona Wildcats also say “Bear Down,” which… Why don't you “Wildcat Down”? Anyway, so, yeah.
Erin:See, it's not just us.
Jack:Well, you know, I'll leave the critical comments aside. Here's, here's one of my favorite questions. Outside of talking and communications, what's something you love? What's something you're particularly good at when you're not, when you're not talking about Opportunity Zones and dealing with Madison Street Strategies.
Erin:So, this is like an embarrassing answer, but when people ask what my hobby is, it's reading. Really. I'm a, I'm a huge reader. I read books of all sorts of magazines, online news, um, but I've been a big reader ever since I was a kid and my oldest daughter has picked it up so she is eight and she's on the sixth book of Harry Potter, which is only 700 pages. Um, so she's, she's making her way through that. So we're reading Harry Potter together. I don't have as much time for reading as I did before. I had two kids and a demanding career. But um, but I do, I love it and I think it's, I think that's what makes you a good communicator, being a good reader and certainly educate you and opens your mind up about things outside of your little world.
Jack:Best book you've read recently?
Erin:Oh my goodness, that's a really hard question. You'll have to come back at the end of the conversation. Let me think for a second. I've been reading Harry Potter for a while now..
Jack:I have run into people who poo, poo, poo, Harry Potter. But I've read all seven of them and I was, I was really, really impressed. I'm a reader too. I, and I'm a reader as well as a writer and I was really impressed with both the quality of the writing and the quality and arc of the story.
Erin:Well, I'll be honest, I just finished the fifth, so she reads it, then I read it, and then we watched the movie and when we're all done, we're going to go to Harry Potter land, uh, at Universal Studios. So I just finished the fifth book in five days, so it was pretty good. I have to say, it's certainly the best book I read recently because that's all I'm reading right now.
Erin:It depends. Fiction, nonfiction, this is gonna throw you off a little bit, but my, one of my Bachelor's Degrees and my Master's Degree, are in Hispanic Studies, and so actually love reading about Hispanic culture. I studied it for so long in school. So sometimes I'll just go to the library and sort of walk around the new section and I read a lot of non nonfiction about Cuba and other Latin American countries. Um, so just something I still am interested in since college.
Jack:I suspect Cuba is a much hotter button issue where you live than it is for pretty well all the rest of us in the U.S.
Erin:For sure. In Florida. People have very strong opinions. That's correct.
Jack:So why did you go into the journalism? What was it that, that pointed you in that direction?
Erin:That's a really good question. Uh, so I went to Auburn and I didn't really know what we talked about that I grew up near there. So I'm from Alabama. I grew up near Auburn. So I went to, to Auburn and I didn't really know what I wanted to do to be honest. And I just started, started looking through majors and trying to decide. And when I came across journalism I thought, you know, I love to read, I love to write. I guess I would consider myself a writer. And, um, and so we just try it out and see. And so, and I was, I was taking Spanish as well, but I didn't want to be a Spanish teacher. And so I ended up having a double major in Spanish and journalism. And so I started working in Georgia at a newspaper as soon as I graduated with my Undergrad, went back for my master's and worked at the newspaper. They're working in a newspaper in Florida. And then I was recruited over to state government, the Department of Children and Families from my work at the newspaper covering their, their office. And they wanted someone to help with their media relations on the quote unquote dark side. And so I transitioned to state government and spent 11 years there where I really loved every minute of it. And I've been really blessed to have jobs that I've loved every single day of my life. And, uh, and hopefully this one too,
Jack:When you think back to that transition period going from the newspaper, what was, what was your experience there?
Erin:Yeah, it was interesting. So I really went from being a newspaper reporter covering government to answering questions to those same people I worked in the newsroom with. So I was on the other side, literally of the microphone. And um, uh, it was, I would say I had the relationships so that they trusted me. But it was also difficult when you're, you know, you're representing a different master, right? You're representing government. But I think in the long run, what newspaper reporters do, and I can't speak to government at the federal level, but I would say it, what I was doing is I always felt like I was representing the public. You know, you're a newspaper reporter because you represent the public. And when I worked in state government for 11 years, I represented the public. And now that's why that's our, our is not necessarily investors or, um, developers our audience is communities because we represent the public. And so that's really been, I would say, the mission of all of the work that I've done throughout my whole career.
Jack:That's what it sounded like as you were describing Madison Street Strategies. It occurred to me that you're, you're almost quasi governmental in your approach, but it sounds like almost a clearing house for information, a hub for pulling together the people that uh, what's the word I'm here with the resources that somebody could come to, you know, the reason I asked you if your, if your scope was limited to Florida's cause I talked to people all the time, we want to know more. I'm trying to gather the names of people that I can say, okay, if you want to know more here's who you're going to talk to.
Erin:absolutely. Well and we love talking to people and educating folks about it. Um, but right. Our primary focus is on local governments and in government agencies. What are the, it's like a Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Group folks who work on the community level. So not necessarily traditional government but government and public/private partnerships. Um, we do help a lot of investors and developers. We connect people, we build relationships all the time. We put on several conferences here or workshops I would say where, we brought together and one specific community because that's what the community felt like they needed, um, investors, developers, local community leaders to talk together about what the community vision was going to be. So sort of that networking, relationship, building angle, and then education. That's really our primary focus to get to that community led vision.
Jack:I know we're only, as you said, we're only about 18 months into this program, but what's the best Opportunity Zone story you've run into so far?
Erin:So, this will predate Opportunity Zone a little bit, but they are actively in an Opportunity Zone and actually have to, can I tell two stories? Of course you can. Okay. So we'll do one at a time. So the one that was so interesting to us when we were at state government, two have the people who came to us and said, we need this area to be chosen as an Opportunity Zone because we will use it to the fullness of what the program can be. One of them is a community in Orlando and it's part of a group across the country called Purpose Built Communities.
There's one in Atlanta, I think that's where they're based. They have about a dozen communities across the country and they call themselves cradle to career communities. And so they come into a very specific, sometimes a census track, sometimes even smaller. And they say, what do we need?
And these are communities where crime is high. Teenage pregnancy is high educational attainment, very low. And they get a community quarterback organization, that's what they call it, some sort of foundation or other funding mechanism. And they, they do a community led approach to how do we change this community for the better. And uh, the one in Orlando, um, is, it's just incredible to say we, we went down and we toured it after they came and asked us to make sure they weren't considered an Opportunity Zone. And they have built a world-class preschool.
They've redone the entire elementary to high school education program. They brought in, they had a hospital partnering in to bring in a free primary care provider for all the residents because they recognize that free primary care is cheaper than emergency room care at the end of the, you know, at the end of the day.
And they build a mixed income, mixed use buildings and mixed income apartments. So they have people who are living in that community who wouldn't have traditionally lived there. Um, and they're really making it a walkable area. Crime is down, education is going to go up. And, and it's an incredible community organization. They have a national expert leaders on their board of banking institutions. The former president of SeaWorld is one of their employees.
I mean, it's just incredible the amount of community engagement they have built. Um, and they have a wonderful website. Um, I can send that to you and have a video. Yeah. I would love for you to add it to your link online. Um, a video that shows how they came to be and it's just a really, really incredible community. And then the second story, which is almost as interesting. Um, we have a friend who now a friend who came to us and said, I have this vision for this area, um, outside of Miami called Little River.
And again, traditionally at low income area, it's crime ridden, had a lot of issues and um, he had sort of quietly bought a, a good chunk of, of, of land property pieces. Um, uh, because he had this vision for a community. Um, uh, I think him and his wife are from Brooklyn. Originally, they had this vision of how do we create a walkable, vibrant community in the area that used to be low income and so they've brought in national and international retailers into this area of little river.
They're building it into this destination area where people are coming in. But on top of that, they put in these really interesting aspects, very thoughtful. They put in a doggy daycare so that people who traditionally wouldn't drive into that community are coming in every day and dropping their dogs off and having to see what else is around there.
Maybe stopping and get a cup of coffee at the new coffee shop and leading the community, but they start to see what's happening. In addition to that, the person walking 46 dogs around the blocks every single day, uh, tends to keep crime a little bit lower. Interestingly enough, when you're walking large dogs all around the community every single day. Um, but the best thing that they did is they had a, uh, there was, uh, it's mostly commercial, a little bit of residential. One of the buildings they bought that was residential was sort of like a duplex, but it was three. So I don't know if that's a triplex or something. Um, and it was, it was a drug house. People were coming in, buying, selling drugs and leaving. And so what they did is they evicted all of the people who live there. They turned two of the, um, pieces of it back to apartments. And one of them, they stocked it with, uh, drinks, snacks, free Wifi, put a lock on the door and invited the police department and said, here's your free lounge in Little River. You can come and go as you please.
It's secure. You can use the Wifi, you can drink as much as you want, soda and water. And here's your free snacks. You can come and hang out here anytime you want. And now they have a mini police station right in the middle of their community where the department just comes and hangs out and does their work and has air conditioning and snacks and they don't have to call them when there's an emergency. They happen to be in the community all the time and it keeps an eye on the place. So it's just a very interesting, thoughtful model to make sure our community is safe, um, and bring in economic development. So there are two incredible models. I'll send you links for both of the folks that we've talked to that are just, and they're both in Opportunity Zones and they are using Opportunity Funds to further their vision. Well, just in case people are driving while they're listening to this, don't think to go to the website. Give us the names of those two communities.
Sure. So the one in Miami is, um, is called Little River, so you can just look for little river Miami and you'll see it. Um, and the purpose built community in Orlando was called lift Orlando, L I F T Lift Orlando. So they can go to Lift Orlando or Little River and uh, see some information about those two communities.
Jack:That's good. Those are great stories. I love stories like that and things that are replicatable around the country too, it sounds like. Absolutely. All right, so time for my favorite question. Strap your helmet on. Here we go. You are Queen of the World for one day and you get to solve one problem and one problem only. What is that problem you are going to solve?
Erin:Oh my goodness, that's such a hard question.
Jack:Well I've got a suggestion Auburn to change it. [Inaudible] War Eagles. Good Lord. Okay. Sorry.
Erin:So, I get to solve one problem, does it have to be related to my work?
Jack:No, you are the queen of the world. You get to do whatever you want, but it's only one day and it's only one problem.
Erin:Perfect. Well, this is not related to work. Uh, but it certainly related to the United States. Um, so my oldest daughter was born premature and um, uh, I had, she's had a lot of challenges. She's doing great right now, but we both almost died during the process. Solve any problem. It would be education for pregnant mothers and for doctors and hospitals and nurses about the dangers of, um, some of the problems that come with pregnancy and figuring out a way to address the mortality of maternal mortality in America, which is actually higher than other countries have, are sort of similar countries.
Jack:I'll be darn.
Erin:So not related, but a very personal to me.
Jack:Well, the reality is when they get to ask questions like this, I get to hear answers that reveal who the people are that I'm talking to and that's what I'm after. I want to know who you are. That's a great answer. It really is. Erin, we've been going for a good while here. I don't want to keep you longer than necessary. Are there any last words that you want to share with the Opportunity Zone listeners before you go?
Erin:I just really appreciate it. And for the investors and developers and communities who are listening, you know, we really believe in that community led approach and that community led vision that that's what's going to make Opportunity Zone successful. So whatever state you're in or community in, I encourage you to get back on the ground, build those relationships locally, bring together investors, developers, community leaders, elected officials, and figure out a vision for your community because that is what will make sure that in 10 years from now when we look back at Opportunity Zone and we want to be able to say this was successful in our community. And that's why it will take to make sure that you can say that.
Jack:Good way to close. Well Erin, thank you for being with us here on the OZExpo Podcast. Hope to see you again soon. For Erin Gillespie of Madison Street Strategies. I am Jack healed for the OZExpo Podcast. Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe so you're notified whenever we release a new episode and… we will talk to you next time.
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