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On Wednesday, October 30, GRI Executive Director for Research, Dr. Robin White, and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Warren Edwards, delivered a lecture, entitled: “Opportunity Zones: Changing the Community Resilience Landscape.” The pair explained the importance of understanding the depth of resilient development and how opportunity zones present a way to leverage government incentives for effective resilient building efforts. 

Dr. White began the presentation by framing resilience as a competitive advantage, as people choose to live in and build upon communities that are resilient, and will abandon those that are not. She also explained that resilience is not just measured through physical or natural disruption. In Charleston, South Carolina, for example, the true test of resilience came not from a hurricane but when a U.S. Navy Base was removed from the city. Social and economic disruptions have increasing resilience implications for communities. As Edwards phrased it, resilience is a horizontal problem that can’t be matched with vertical solutions. Instead of analyzing systems, we must look at all functions and services within a society to understand its resilience. Both speakers went on to add that communities today are facing more complex disruptions at an accelerating rate, making resilient solutions essential to help a community come back better than before. 

Following the overview of resilience and its implications, Dr. White touched on GRI’s approach to building community resilience which uses an Integrated Resilience Enhancement Solution (I-RES) as a way to lay the foundation for enhancing resilience in vulnerable areas. Using publicly available data and other indicators, GRI creates a snapshot of a community to help them understand their baseline resilience level and how improvements can be made. This is all done with the hope that when a disruption occurs, the community will be equipped to recover quickly and effectively. 

The lecture concluded with a discussion on Opportunity Zones and how they can be leveraged to build resilience and economic development. Opportunity Zones are Governor nominated census tracts that when invested in, allow the investor to defer capital gains taxes for 10 years. Additionally, all profits derived from an investment in an opportunity zone are tax free. GRI’s hope is that by providing communities with an understanding of their current state of resilience, through the I-RES process, value can be optimized for the community and investor when capitalizing on this Opportunity Zone legislation. By identifying effective areas for investment, resilient solutions can be created and built upon through this program. 

For more information on GRI’s Resilience Solutions, click here.

Watch the full lecture below.