In his inaugural address, President Trump promised “the forgotten men and women of America will no longer be forgotten.” Over the past three and a half years, the Trump administration has worked to help Americans on the margins, and create opportunities for everyone to pursue their own American Dream.
This theme of opportunity for all is evident in a number of areas, from trade policy to tax reform. But nowhere is it more apparent than in the policies that have lined up to enable one business in Wilmington that we visited Monday: Second Chances Farm.
Second Chances Farm is a distillation of two of the president’s key priorities: creating job opportunities for low-income Americans and reforming the criminal justice system.
First, the president’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act included the creation of Opportunity Zones to spur investment and revitalization in some of America’s poorest communities. Working with governors across the country, the Trump administration has approved nearly 9,000 communities as Opportunity Zones, incentivizing long-term investment through capital gains tax relief in low-income areas, bringing real jobs and sustainable growth.
The Department of the Treasury anticipated $100 billion in greater investment over the 10-year life of the Opportunity Zone incentive. These policies are working at a rapid pace: In just two years, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors found that Opportunity Zones have driven $75 billion in new investment. These investments are expected to lift one million Americans out of poverty.
Building on this private sector success President Trump established the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to target, coordinate, and streamline Federal resources to distressed communities in education, workforce development, safe neighborhoods, and entrepreneurship in historically neglected neighborhoods. Recently, President Trump issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to prioritize locating in these distressed areas.
At the same time, President Trump signed into law the First Step Act in 2018, addressing long-term policy failures that kept many non-violent offenders locked up for years. The First Step Act has helped reduce sentences for non-violent offenders while at the same time helping inmates successfully return to society through rehabilitative programs. Because of the First Step Act, thousands of these non-violent offenders have had their sentences reduced or been released early, and are now reintegrating with society.
Together, these key actions by the Trump administration have helped Second Chances Farm to thrive. This indoor farming facility was built in an Opportunity Zone by founder Ajit George, and employs several dozen former inmates. Using hydroponics and LED lights, Second Chances Farm is providing Wilmington with fresh, local organic produce year-round, while also providing former inmates with good jobs and stimulating economic growth in the community.
For the former inmates employed though, this isn’t just a job. One former inmate and Second Chances Farm employee, KaLief Ringgold, said, “being here is not a second chance, it saved my life.” That kind of testimony from an employee is exactly what Opportunity Zones and the First Step Act are all about.
We are proud of the way that Second Chances Farm and businesses like it are using Trump administration policies to create opportunities for all Americans. Together we are ensuring that the forgotten men and women of this country have their own opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
Dr. Ben Carson is Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Scott Turner is executive director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council.