Fellowship Openings

Launching an Opportunity Zone for the Inland Empire

Project: Launching an Opportunity Zone for the Inland Empire

Agency: Riverside County and San Bernardino County, CA in collaboration with the Center for Social Innovation-UC Riverside

Location: Inland Empire (Riverside-San Bernardino), CA


The Inland Empire (IE) consists of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, a metropolitan region of more than 27,000 square miles with over four million people – the 13th most populous in the U.S. and the third largest in California. This heartland region represents the demographic and economic future of California. Today the region is the fastest-growing in the state and investments and policies formulated now will have enormous ramifications for the continued success of the Golden State. In alignment with Governor Newsom’s recent launch of the new initiative, Regions Rise Together, the Inland Empire is poised to leverage existing efforts to advance sustainable regional economic development.

Nationally, according to the Milken Institute’s 2018 study of 200 major U.S. metropolitan areas that measured job and wage growth, the IE ranked 15th, a five-point jump from the previous year’s report. Once the capital of the navel orange, the IE now leads the country in transportation and warehouse employment, fueled by the region’s e-commerce appetite. Health care and construction have also seen a surge in new jobs. The IE’s unemployment rate hit 14.4% at the depths of the downturn in July 2010; but is now 4.1%, the lowest on record. The Economic Development Agencies (EDA) of the two counties want to build on the current economic momentum by extending and diversifying local development, re-framing economic and workforce development to meet new challenges and opportunities, such as automation and artificial intelligence, and preparing the region for the future.

Consequently, the region’s EDAs are determined to generate high quality jobs by attracting investment in key growth sectors such as green and clean technology, biotechnology, cannabis, informatics, hotels and tourism as well as bolster their core economic drivers such as logistics, healthcare, manufacturing and agricultural technology. The City of San Bernardino is a geographic focus because of the number of opportunity zones, one being the Carousel Mall, the 43-acre heart of its commercial district that is now closed. In order to attract the level of investment needed to fulfill this ambitious agenda, the region’s EDAs are preparing to work with a new federal incentive introduced in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, known as Opportunity Zones. Through the deferral, reduction and elimination of capital gains taxes, Opportunity Zones have the potential to attract billions of dollars in private capital, making them one of the largest economic development initiatives in U.S. history. The goal of each EDA is ultimately to create an Investment Prospectus, which will identify investable projects around a vision for leveraging private capital toward sustainable, equitable and inclusive investment. The prospectus will give investors a basis for evaluating opportunities by highlighting assets, advantages, partnerships, and even shovel-ready projects like the Carousel Mall.

To support this work, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, in collaboration with CSI-UCR, will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year who will collaborate with their respective EDAs and local stakeholders to help utilize the Opportunity Zone tax incentive by overseeing creation of the region’s Investment Prospectus along with a framework for investment deals with the EDAs (with a “reach” potential of a first round of investment deals). These and subsequent deals will be designed to foster the inclusive growth and deliberate placemaking that they would otherwise not be able to achieve. Since the region’s EDAs will be a first mover in the Opportunity Zone landscape, the fellow has an opportunity to create economic development models that can be used in similar communities across California and the rest of the country.


The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in October 2019, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will study the market norms and best practices developed thus far for Opportunity Zones. An overview of the IE’s economic, social and political panorama will also be necessary, including consultation with local and state leaders to understand the political implications and policy dynamics that can aid or impede the fellow’s work. Subsequently, the fellow will begin an extensive outreach and engagement with public, private and community stakeholders to determine local priorities. The fellow will then undertake a review of the work done to date by the EDAs on each Investment Prospectus, respectively, to make sure they conform with an appropriate Opportunity Zone project focus and accurately reflect community priorities. Subsequently, in the second half of the year, the fellow will work alongside existing staff to seek out and meet with potential investors, assess investment opportunities and support the selection process of the first round of projects.

The fellow’s success in the endeavor will be evaluated based on several factors. Solid project management abilities in an economic development context, along with exceptional community management skills are essential to execute an ambitious agenda. Stakeholder engagement across a broad demographic range is of paramount importance, coupled with a commitment to establishing inclusive, sustainable, cross-sector collaborations related to the regional agenda. Therefore, leadership skills are another key ability the fellow will bring to the table. Finally, the fellow will stay ahead of the learning curve on the still-evolving Opportunity Zones, particularly regarding Treasury regulations governing investments. By the end of the year, the fellow will help deliver and execute a groundbreaking plan that identifies and promotes projects for profitable investment, inclusive growth and deliberate placemaking.

  • Conduct a landscape analysis and a review of best practices:  Develop an overview of project’s main pieces — Opportunity Zones’ market norms and best practices developed to date; the IE’s social, economic and political panorama; and the range of public, private and community stakeholders whose interests coincide with the project’s successful outcome.
  • Engage and align stakeholders: Establish ongoing channels of communication with stakeholders to ensure that all viewpoints are incorporated in the Investment Prospectus, which will serve as the IE’s calling card to prospective investors by highlighting assets, advantages, partnerships and projects. To the extent that there are more projects on the wish-list than can readily fit in the prospectus, exercise cost-benefit analyses as necessary and find consensus on priorities in conjunction with stakeholders.
  • Finalize Investment Prospectus and engage investor community: Review work done on prospectus and integrate information gleaned from extensive stakeholder outreach and subsequent analyses of priorities. Adapt the prospectus to any updates on Treasury regulations governing investments in Opportunity Zones. Finalize prospectus, engage the investor community and take part in follow-up meetings on project proposals. Develop framework for investment deals in collaboration with EDA staff.

Performance measures will be provided to the candidate at the beginning of the fellowship year to ensure project productivity


  • Reg Javier, Deputy Executive Officer, County of San Bernardino Economic Development Agency
  • Carrie Harmon,  Assistant Director, Riverside County Economic Development Agency
  • Rob Moran, Economic Development Manager, Riverside County Economic Development Agency
  • Rhonesia Perry, Economic Development Coordinator, County of San Bernardino Economic Development Agency
  • Matthew Mena, Economic Development Technician, County of San Bernardino Economic Development Agency
  • Karthick Ramakrishnan, Director, Center for Social Innovation-UC Riverside
  • Marlenee Blas-Pedral, Associate Director, Center for Social Innovation-UC Riverside


  • At least 15 years of professional experience in real estate development, brokerage, land use development, real estate transaction or finance, business attraction and retention, regional economic development or a similar field.
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
  • Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
  • Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
  • Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
  • Ability to create direction and movement within potentially resistant or skeptical environments.
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.