bridgeport — Applications are now open for the regional initiative Opportunity Appalachia.

At the Bridgeport Conference Center on Jan. 13, economic development leaders gathered with West Virginia residents interested in leveraging investments in Opportunity Zones to learn more about this initiative set to position communities to attract new and renewed interest in projects critical to the growth of their towns.

The Opportunity Appalachia initiative is recognized by Forbes as one of the top 20 catalysts in the nation for “sparking the equitable revitalization of distressed communities identified as Opportunity Zones.”

Opportunity Appalachia is a three-state program (West Virginia, Ohio and Virginia) that will provide technical assistance resources averaging $50,000 each to up to five West Virginia-based communities, projects, and/or developers located in Opportunity Zones. There are 55 areas located across West Virginia designated as Opportunity Zones.

Attendees at the summit learned about challenges and strategies for Opportunity Zone projects. U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin shared remarks emphasizing the unique potential for Opportunity Zone investments to spark economic growth in West Virginia communities.

Appalachian Community Capital is the Opportunity Appalachia program manager. The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority and West Virginia Community Development Hub are the lead state partners administering the program in West Virginia.

Through Opportunity Appalachia, up to five Opportunity Zone communities in West Virginia will receive technical assistance to develop community strategies and structure investable transactions, create prospectus and pitch decks targeting Opportunity Fund investors, and other services.

Investment priorities include projects focusing on downtown development, manufacturing, information technology, health care, education, food systems, clean energy, heritage tourism and recreation.

For more information, visit http://appalachiancommunitycapitalcdfi.org/oa-program/. Applications are due March 2 at 5 p.m.

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