In The News

Opportunity Zone Magazine Top 25 Policy Influencers

Opportunity Zone Magazine is pleased to announce the Top 25 Opportunity Zone Policy Influencers. The distinguished winners support, advocate for or help draft Opportunity Zone legislation and additional incentives to help communities in need. 


Howard W. Buffett

President, Global Impact

Howard W. Buffett is the President of Global Impact LLC, an advisory firm utilizing a new data analytics technology called Impact Rate of Return®. iRR® enables organizations to measure, analyze, and report on societal impact of any kind, and is currently in use by dozens of Opportunity Zone investors across the U.S. Buffett is also a professor at Columbia University, is an author, and advises or is on the boards of Case New Holland Industrial, Toyota Motor North America, Inari Agriculture, REEF Technology, and S2G Ventures. He also chairs the Advisory Council for Harvard’s International Negotiation Program.

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry?

The practice of Opportunity Zone investing would be greatly improved if standards were established and mandated for the measurement, analysis, and reporting of community impact. Any such standards should allow for a measurement system that is easy enough to implement and rigorous enough to serve as a sound management practice, and we often recommend that OZ projects utilize the Impact Rate of Return approach. Such standards could have been applied to the selection and approval of OZs at the outset of the legislation, and could also be used to tie tax breaks to proven impact in the future.


Alfonso Costa Jr.

Executive Vice President, Falcone Group

Alfonso Costa Jr. serves as Executive Vice President of the Falcone Group, where he is responsible for leading the company’s workforce housing division and public-private partnership opportunities. The Falcone Group is a real estate development and investment firm that has developed and acquired more than 20,000 multifamily apartments and 15 million square feet of commercial space throughout the country. Costa previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff & Opportunity Zones lead for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he was responsible for overseeing policy and held the title of Chairman’s delegate on the Federal Government's inter-agency Opportunity and Revitalization Council. He is a graduate of Harvard University (JD), the University of Oxford (MSc), and Yale University (BA).

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry?

Governors should be given the chance to increase their respective states’ Opportunity Zone census tracts, but the eligibility for incremental or newly designated OZs should be circumscribed to low-income community tracts and areas that have been hardest-hit by COVID from an employment standpoint. Also, developers should be further motivated to create either workforce or affordable housing.


Henry Cuellar

U.S. Representative (D-TX)

Serving his ninth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Henry Cuellar represents Texas’ 28th congressional district. He is the Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, while also serving on the Defense Subcommittee and the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Congressman Cuellar was named Chief Deputy Whip for the 117th Congress. He completed a master’s degree in international trade at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) and earned both a Juris Doctor and Ph.D. in government from the University of Texas at Austin. Cuellar previously served as a Texas State Representative and Texas Secretary of State.

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry?

Opportunity Zones allow private organizations to invest in economically underserved areas in exchange for tax breaks. This is not just good for business, it is good for communities in South Texas that have historically lacked access to capital and investment. We must continue to provide private organizations with the resources to continue their investments by removing unnecessary red tape and bureaucratic processes. These zones are critical for the economic development of South Texas and will be imperative as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Mike DeWine

Governor, Ohio

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has had a long, distinguished career in public service, starting with his election to Greene County prosecuting attorney and continuing with his work as a state senator, U.S. congressman, Ohio’s lieutenant governor, a U.S. senator, and Ohio’s attorney general. As Governor, DeWine has devoted resources and staff to building the workforce and supporting communities. Through the state’s 2020-2021 biennium budget, Ohio became one of the first states to create a state tax incentive to attract more investment in Ohio’s 320 Opportunity Zones. The Ohio Opportunity Zones Tax Credit Program provides a 10%, non-refundable income tax credit to those who invest in Ohio’s Opportunity Zones.

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry? 

In order to increase the ability of developers to take advantage of Opportunity Zones, the federal government should consider extending or enhancing current Opportunity Zone benefits, as the 15% stepped-up basis benefit has already expired. Along with the Ohio Opportunity Zone Tax Credit, this could potentially increase investment in Ohio’s Opportunity Zones.


Daniel Kowalski

Former Counselor, U.S. Department of Treasury

Dan Kowalski is the owner of Wizard of OZ, a bespoke consultancy focused on helping people use the Opportunity Zone incentive. He advises Belpointe OZ, Eazy Do It, Inc., and the Redivider Blockchain OZ Fund. Previously, Kowalski was Counselor to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 2017 until January of 2021. He was the Treasury official responsible for policy development of the regulations, forms, and instructions required to implement Opportunity Zones. Prior to Treasury, Kowalski worked for Congress for two decades. He received his MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School, and BA from St. John’s College, Annapolis.

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry?

Allow every U.S. taxpayer to invest in Opportunity Zones to turbocharge investments and inspire OZ residents to start businesses in their communities. Do this by allowing non-capital gains (ordinary) income invested in Qualified Opportunity Funds to receive deferred recognition and elimination of capital gains on appreciation just like investments of capital gains income. If a limiting principle is necessary, cap a taxpayer’s total QOF holdings from ordinary income at $5 million. Accompany democratization of OZ investment with extensions of the recently expired 10% step up in basis for QOF investments held for five years and the 2026 sunset. 


John Lettieri

President and CEO, Economic Innovation Group

John Lettieri is President and CEO of the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), a nonprofit public policy organization dedicated to forging a more dynamic U.S. economy for all Americans. Under his leadership, EIG has become a nationally recognized force in policy debates ranging from regional inequality and worker mobility to entrepreneurship and immigration reform. EIG worked closely with lawmakers to design and champion the bipartisan Investing in Opportunity Act, which established Opportunity Zones as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry?

The Economic Innovation Group has called on lawmakers to pursue a number of common sense ways to make Opportunity Zones a more effective tool for supporting investment in low-income areas, including: enacting comprehensive reporting requirements to track OZ investments and the economic conditions in designated communities over time; sunsetting the designation of higher-income tracts; providing new federal resources to support local implementation efforts; and enacting a one-time extension of the deadline for new OZ investments.


Burgess Owens

U.S. Representative (R-UT)

Burgess Owens is the Representative from Utah’s Fourth Congressional District. Born in the segregated South into a family of teachers, he developed a passion for dreaming big and serving others through the gift of education. After his career on the football field, Owens worked in the corporate sales world and later founded a non-profit dedicated to helping troubled and incarcerated youth in Utah. In Congress, Rep. Owens serves as a member of the Education and Labor Committee and Judiciary Committee, championing policies that benefit students, workers, small businesses, and families in Utah and across the country.

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry?

Since their creation in 2017, Opportunity Zones have been a proven tool to incentivize investment and job creation in underserved neighborhoods across America. Vulnerable communities have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to struggle with stagnant real wages, high unemployment, limited educational opportunities, and other roadblocks to growth. Congress must lay the groundwork to ensure that new Opportunity Zones can be established as communities continue to change and evolve. This will allow local leaders, stakeholders, and businesses to make critical investments where they are most needed.


Jared Polis

Governor, Colorado

Governor Jared Polis is a Colorado native, entrepreneur, former small business owner, education leader, and public servant. After launching his first business from his college dorm room, Polis founded multiple innovative online businesses. As Colorado and the nation face pandemic-induced economic challenges, Governor Polis is committed to using every tool available to help small businesses and local communities get back on their feet as quickly as possible, and move Colorado forward as a “State of Opportunity.” That’s why the Governor launched the Opportunity Zone Capital Accelerator Program last year to provide free consulting services for businesses in the spirit of entrepreneurship. This nationally recognized program has helped secure investments in critical areas like early childhood education and tourism that are important parts of Colorado’s economy.

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry?

Our innovative approach makes Colorado a leader in designating Opportunity Zones. Colorado earned national recognition for our data-driven policies to identify and maximize what areas qualify for OZ designation. We designed our OZs through a public process that brought community leaders to the table, ensuring a statewide impact with champions to attract and direct investment every step of the way. We are proud to continue our efforts to realize the full potential of Opportunity Zones with the recently launched gBETA Opportunity Zone Capital Accelerator program. Moving forward, it’s critical that we continue to leverage Opportunity Zones as a powerful tool to help communities attract investment to help businesses expand, connect workers to good-paying jobs, and create opportunities to ensure we can all thrive.


María Salazar

U.S. Representative (R-FL)

Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar represents Florida’s 27th Congressional District, passionately serving the people of South Florida. She currently serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as well as the House Committee on Small Business. Congresswoman Salazar is committed to acting tirelessly in defense of individual rights and liberties, spearheading economic development and job training efforts, and promoting environmental resiliency in her community. Well-known for her advocacy for human rights and democracy around the world, she is also a five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist. Salazar holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Miami and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry?

Opportunity Zones have proven to be a game-changer for Americans, and we should constantly be improving them to increase economic opportunity across the country. By putting an emphasis on disadvantaged small businesses, OZs could expand investment opportunities to more than real estate companies, supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs within their own communities. We also need to make sure that tax policy continues to generate investor appetite and guarantees Opportunity Zone investment as the safest and best option for investors. Finally, expanding OZ maps would provide more investment opportunities for communities in need.


Fran Seegull

President, U.S. Impact Investing Alliance

Fran Seegull is President of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, which works to increase awareness of impact investing and foster deployment of impact capital across asset classes globally. Seegull also serves as Executive Director of the Tipping Point Fund on Impact Investing. Previously, she was the Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director at ImpactAssets, leading investment management for The Giving Fund. Seegull has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Barnard College at Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard University. She serves on the Align Impact Investment Committee and the advisory boards of SOCAP and CASE i3 Initiative at Duke.

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry?

Transparency and accountability are hallmarks of a functioning market – for Opportunity Zones to succeed, Congress must mandate effective reporting standards. Congress always intended for QOFs to report essential information on the size, nature and location of investments, in addition to the impacts of those investments on communities. Adopting reporting standards like those in Sen. Scott’s IMPACT Act would shine a spotlight on the program’s successes while preventing abuse. And Congress should go further still, creating additional incentives for QOFs that go above and beyond by voluntarily engaging communities to set investment priorities and ensure residents benefit from OZ activity.


Michelle Steel

U.S. Representative (R-CA)

Congresswoman Michelle Steel is serving her first term representing California’s 48th District. Born in South Korea and raised in Japan, Steel immigrated to the United States to build her own American Dream. She is one of the first Korean American women to ever serve in Congress. After seeing how difficult it was for her non-English speaking mother to navigate the tax laws and state regulations, she ran for the State Board of Equalization, where she represented more than nine million residents. Steel later served as Supervisor and Chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. She currently serves on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Education and Labor.

What do you think should be changed with the OZ legislation to further improve the industry?

I’m proud to have introduced legislation (H.R. 4608) that would provide for the designation of new qualified Opportunity Zones every ten years, and a new Opportunity Zone tax incentive round beginning on January 1, 2027. In California there is increasing demand and need for housing development. This is especially true of housing development that makes housing more affordable for low-income Californians. Opportunity Zones play a key role in housing-affordability challenges. It’s important that we encourage investment in projects that will benefit our communities and allow people to achieve their own version of the American Dream.