08 Jan 2020 Vision OZ 2030: The Local Opportunity for Southwest Florida’s Values-Centered Asset Owners
by Dr. Anthony Jewett, Managing Partner, SW Florida Impact Partners LLP
Note: This is the last of a series of columns written by members of the SecondMuse cohort working in partnership with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation in Collaboratory. SecondMuse is a company that helps support and nurture “homegrown” entrepreneurs. These are people from our community who are working hard to establish or grow businesses here in our neighborhoods. They have identified needs in our marketplace and are starting up companies to meet them, while strengthening our community. SecondMuse and the foundation believe that people are the core of our economy and that is an important step in Southwest Florida philanthropy, to help people establish businesses here, to create jobs here and keep the talent and enterprise here.
Southwest Florida’s 23 federally-designated Opportunity Zones are now seeking investment, and there are more than a few positive and creative ways that the values-centered investor can put their assets to work in a manner that improves our local economy, revitalizes neighborhoods, and regenerates the earth — all with the reasonable expectation of a positive financial return as well.
At SW Florida Impact Partners LLP, we are partners in neighborhood renewal. We make our mark through impact investing, real estate, and community engagement. We are a very intentionally diverse grouping of both individuals and companies who came together in 2018 in order to begin making progress on the promise of the Opportunity Zones (OZ) legislation that has become one of the landmark pieces of the Trump Administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The OZ program provides significant tax benefits to asset owners who want to invest in economically distressed communities, and we want to see the possibilities of that program made real right here. We are honored to work now in close, long-term partnership with the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency to assist in renewing the economic vibrancy of the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Redevelopment District.
As Managing Partner, our work is deeply personal to me. For at least five generations, my family has called Southwest Florida home. After graduate school, I spent several years living in the San Francisco Bay Area in and around the strong innovation ecosystem there and the widely-shared intention of equitable, sustainable development that permeates that entire nine-county region. I saw two trends that struck me deeply while I lived there: one in the flexibility and effectiveness of private, venture capital investing for growing tech companies, and the other in the evolution away from pure philanthropy and towards impact investing for social change. Through the former, private capital has managed to revolutionize the way we all live and work. And through the latter, we are beginning to understand that one can do well (along many dimensions) by also doing good.
As I returned in late 2015 from nearly 18 years away from home, these two converged naturally in my mind as a means of meeting a significant need for physical and economic renewal in the place that had nurtured me. And so, our partnership has dedicated the next decade to moving the needle on improving the social determinants of health (SDOH) within the three census tracts that make up my family’s ancestral home, Historic Dunbar. We are confident that our success here, in this great place, will make it all the more possible for us to create similar success in communities like Dunbar across Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Glades and Collier counties.
We are a region rich in assets, both financial and human that we can and should be deploying to achieve more equitable life outcomes and sustainable, more healthy neighborhood environments for all. But, we are at the very beginning of building a culture of impact investing here in Southwest Florida.
In many ways, we all still see a stark distinction between how we earn versus how we give. That distinction is an old one, and we have the chance to take a new direction. For that to happen, values-centered asset owners and managers who are currently engaged in intentional investing for impact need to convene regularly, to invite others to the table who want to learn more, and to share widely the impact of our work. Our local governments and public authorities can help us to identify some of the priorities where private capital can more easily create value for the public good than government can do alone. Even now, through our work, we already see more than a few business opportunities in access to fresh, healthy foods and strong connected food systems; in improved, more ecologically friendly transportation options; in the restoration of housing and the improvement of residential energy efficiency; and in improved access to personal development, fitness, healthcare and culture options that citizens across all lines of race, ethnicity and income can enjoy. These ventures merit such changemaking capital.
Our networks are stronger; our investment thesis is clearer; and our connectivity to the other entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial teams with whom we can reshape our region have been immeasurably bolstered by participating in the 2019 SecondMuse cohort. We are grateful to SecondMuse, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, and to the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency and its Commissioners for their foresight and vision of what new ideas and entrepreneurs can accomplish together. For more information, email: [email protected]
About SecondMuse and its Partnership with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
SecondMuse is an international company that collaborates with visionary governments, corporations, foundations and startups to build 21st-century economies. At the core of our economies are people, communities and networks. From Brooklyn to Bali, our programs span geographies, sectors and size of business. We tackle essential challenges in manufacturing, energy, capital, education, mental health, data, civic engagement, food, blockchain, disaster risk and more around the world. Located in Collaboratory and in partnership with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, SecondMuse launched in February 2019 and is currently working with its first cohort of local entrepreneurs.