Authored and originally posted by Jason Blevins at The Colorado Sun. Original and fullpost: https://coloradosun.com/2019/10/24/colorado-opportunity-zone-investment-west-slope/.
Stephanie Copeland served as the executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade before joining Four Points Funding in Steamboat Springs earlier this year, helping the investment firm expand the first Opportunity Zone fund focused on rural Colorado.
Four Points, which expects to raise and invest about $20 million every six months over the next three to four years, has committed to four Opportunity Zone-designated projects so far this year.
The fund’s investors are supporting a glamping resort in Naturita, with tents, vans and campers along a stretch of the San Miguel River.
They are investing in a tiny-home hotel and RV park adjacent to miles of trails in Meeker.
And they are helping develop multifamily housing in Glenwood Springs and on a tract adjacent to Las Colonias Park in Grand Junction.
Copeland said the Four Points fund is looking at more Opportunity Zone investments in glamping resorts, which lure visitors while providing jobs in areas where tourism infrastructure is needed. “They can be such a natural fit in some of these areas.”
Across Colorado, there’s a growing gap of housing for middle-income workers who maybe aren’t ready to buy a single-family home, but don’t want to rent apartments built for transient workers. But developers tend to migrate toward remote luxury homes, where regulations are less rigid and the returns are more immediate than building higher-density, urban rental properties that take years to pay off.
“We are really trying to bring in investment that wouldn’t otherwise come and do something that provides benefits for the community,” Copeland said.
An Opportunity Zone investment is a long-term play, with investors required to keep their money in the region for at least 10 years to earn the tax exemptions. It’s not for spec-home builders or fix-and-flip investors.
The fund’s process involves getting to know the community’s needs before investing, Copeland said. Four Points also is corralling investors who want to support small businesses in communities that have received Opportunity Zone investments. Four Points’ West Slope Angels connects investors with entrepreneurs to help small companies and seed a start-up scene beyond the Front Range.
“It’s such a natural complement to the infrastructure investment, because we are investing in businesses that intend to create a stronger community,” she said. “So we help de-risk both sides of the investment.”
West Slope communities are celebrating their new appeal to investors, Copeland said, describing the cities where the Four Points fund is investing as “unbelievably friendly and welcoming.”
In Glenwood Springs, for example, the city is waiving improvement fees for developers who build multifamily rental housing that is affordable to households earning up to 120% of the area median income, which is about $85,000 for a family of four.
Four Points isn’t directing investors to specific projects. They are pooling funds to spread across an array of projects.
“We are doing small investments a number of times across multiple geographies,” Copeland said. “We would not be doing this unless these Opportunity Zones existed.”