By Opportunity Zone Magazine Staff

The Rockefeller Foundation has launched a $5.5 million initiative to help U.S. cities attract private investment in economically-distressed communities through Opportunity Zones. The city of Newark is the first to be chosen and will receive $920,000 in co-funding from Prudential Financial and The Rockefeller Foundation, working through the Newark Alliance, which is committed to equitable development. The other five cities will be announced over the next few months.

“Prudential has a long history of investing in underserved and distressed communities through our impact investments portfolio. As an anchor institution, we invested heavily in Newark’s ongoing growth and re-emergence.,” says Daryl Shore who is the Director of Inclusive Communities at Prudential. “As such, we see the Opportunity Zone program as a chance to attract more capital and attention to the ongoing work of investing in our home city.”

The initiative targets the more than 30 million low-income Americans living in Opportunity Zones. Shore says Newark has 52 census tracts designated as opportunity zones. He says the program has the potential to drive private capital into many of the Newark’s underserved  areas, and that they strongly believe there needs to be a focus on both the financial benefits of the program and the uplift of excluded groups that motivated the program’s existence.

Mayor Ras Baraka said, in a statement, that he was pleased that through the support of their longtime partner, Prudential, that Newark was selected as the first city in The Rockefeller Foundation initiative. Mayor Baraka added, “The only way to make sure the 'opportunity' in Opportunity Zones benefits all Newark residents is to intentionally focus resources to ensure it happens.”

The initiative will provide six cities with financial and human resources support for two years.  This includes funding for and designation of a Chief Opportunity Zone Officer, embedded in city government or city economic development agencies. The support also provides funding for two community engagement specialists to support and facilitate community engagement and involvement in the proposed Opportunity Zone projects and businesses.  Each city will also receive two years of support through a national Opportunity Zone Technical Assistance team to compile and leverage local, state, and federal incentives, and help structure and support deals.

“The fact that Rockefeller chose Newark as the first city to be selected for the program is an example of how Newark is being recognized as a city that is distinct and on the move,” says Shore.