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Pagosa Springs
Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Pagosa Springs recognized as leading national opportunity zone community

By Mary Jo Coulehan
Special to The SUN
Pagosa Springs has earned national recognition as one of the top 20 communities and Opportunity Zone funds committed to achieving equitable economic growth in underserved and overlooked communities as identified by The Forbes OZ 20: Top Opportunity Zone Catalysts, a partnership between the Sorenson Impact Center and Forbes Magazine.
Both the state and town were recognized for their applications demonstrating commitment to equitable economic opportunity zone stewardship.
Jim Sorenson, founder of the Sorenson Impact Center, said, “We received 113 applications to the Forbes OZ 20, with 62 Funds and 51 communities testing their OZ strategies through a rigorous selection process. The quality and standard of applications was excellent with communities and OZ funds showing a clear commitment to social impact. We are excited to share learnings from the Forbes OZ 20 to help other community organizations and OZ funds deliver real and meaningful change in the communities they support.”
The purpose of this new list is to showcase how large and small investors, as well as rural and urban communities, are pioneering dynamic, equity-minded approaches to the revitalization of distressed communities.
The invitation to apply came from Heather Otter, Region 9 Economic Development project manager. She also mentored and was closely involved in the development of Pagosa’s community prospectus.
Mary Jo Coulehan, Chamber executive director and administrator for the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation (CDC), submitted the application and community prospectus to the Sorenson Impact Center on behalf of the CDC.
“It was an intense application process and I knew we would be competing against some really large cities. However, I was so proud of the work that the Pagosa Springs Opportunity Zone work group did, the process and the final product, that I decided to go for it,” Coulehan said.
“A lot of work, brainstorming, gathering of data and design went into creating the community prospectus. Community individuals, the town and county, as well as organizations such as Pagosa Housing Partners contributed immensely. However, creating the prospectus is just a first step,” Coulehan said. “The next step is to get in front of investors and create an interest for them to develop projects that work with our community and can help with our needs such as housing or bringing in light manufacturing creating year-round, steady jobs. This invitation was a way for us to get Pagosa in front of investors who may not know we even exist.”
She added, “I’m honored to be considered for this recognition alongside the cities of Montrose and Colorado Springs who I think are doing a fantastic job with development and OZ interest. I also applaud the Forbes OZ 20 for recognizing Colorado and a large, mid-size and small rural community within the state. We’re all at different stages and there’s no one right way; we all can learn something.”
More than 8,700 opportunity zones were designated as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. These zones were selected in collaboration with state and federal leaders to drive investment into distressed, underserved or overlooked communities. The incentive offers deferments and savings on capital gains when investors deploy funds in opportunity zone projects.
To find out more about Opportunity Zone projects or the community prospectus, contact Coulehan at director@pagosachamber.com or 264-2360.

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