A central animating theme of the American dream is that anyone with an idea can launch their own business. This entrepreneurial energy makes enormous contributions to society by addressing unmet needs, improving lives and solving pressing problems.
These entrepreneurs also serve as an economic engine for communities by creating jobs that lift people out of poverty.
But that engine is breaking down. Capital pools are drying up, leaving many entrepreneurs without a means to finance their ventures. More than 75 percent of venture capital in the U.S. is invested in just three states: New York, California and Massachusetts.
More than 10 years after the financial crisis, small business lending remains below the pre-crisis level.
The federal Opportunity Zone program could change that. The program encourages those who have benefited the most from the economic recovery – those with capital gains – to reinvest those gains in projects located in struggling communities.
These 8,700 low-income neighborhoods designated as Opportunity Zones tend to have higher unemployment, lower incomes and larger minority populations. But they also have overlooked entrepreneurs and innovators who have been bypassed by investors.