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Letter from the CEO: 2021 Year in Review

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Those words will ring true to anyone who has been part of a collaboration or tackled big challenges. When I took on the role of founding CEO of Invest Appalachia, I knew there weren’t going to be any shortcuts. The collective vision that guides IA – an equitable, sustainable, and resilient regional economy where a fully resourced investment ecosystem meets the capital needs of every community – is a long-term undertaking. And our founding values – partnership, accountability, transparency, equity, and self-determination – commit us to a process that is collaborative and thoughtful.

After a year on the job, I’m more convinced than ever that Appalachia is ready for transformative investment. Invest Appalachia is just one piece of the system, and everything we do relies on partnerships and place-based capacity. Even so, I believe that the capital and coordination IA adds to the community investment system will help to supercharge our region’s existing assets and opportunities. Working together, we can accelerate the flow of investment capital to support community priorities and create a more just, inclusive, and resilient economy.


Update on Timing for Launch

The Invest Appalachia Fund, which will provide flexible repayable investment to community-based projects and enterprises, is planning to launch operations in early 2022.

Are you a investor, funder, or donor interested in being part of the Fund’s “First Close”, or just interested to learn more about Invest Appalachia? Contact us for more information.

If you have a project that will be looking for financing in the first half of 2022, let us know! You can submit a project overview through IA’s online portal to get started on our due diligence process.


2021 Progress and Milestones

Much of IA’s work in 2021 has been focused on organizational development and preparation to launch investment operations in 2022, though we’ve also deeply engaged with regional stakeholders, potential investors, and national allies. A few important internal milestones in Invest Appalachia’s development this year include:

  • Collaborating with our Investment Manager team at LOCUS Capital, a mission-driven Registered Investment Advisor that will manage and administer the Fund’s investment portfolio. They’ve provided invaluable capacity, expertise, and most importantly, a partnership approach and values that align with IA’s. Thanks to Jay Beekman, Deb Markley, Sydney England, and Adam Northup.

  • Developing Fund investment policies and protocols in the most collaborative way possible – a 5 month working group process where 5 regional CDFI partners informed and shaped every element of IA’s investment approach. Thanks to Donna Gambrell from Appalachian Community Capital, Peter Hille from Mountain Association, Rick Larson from Partner Community Capital, Bill Pollard from BrightBridge Capital, and Sara Morgan from Fahe. We look forward to putting this impact-focused investment strategy to work alongside these and other partners in 2022!

  • Developing a comprehensive impact tracking framework that will help IA to measure progress on sector-specific goals, as well as in our three portfolio-wide impact areas of Increased Socioeconomic and Racial Equity, Environmental Sustainability and Climate Resilience, and Community Wealth-Building and Quality Jobs. Thanks to UVA Tadler Fellow Lauren Coppins.

  • Creating the formal legal structures and investor-facing documents to support formation of the Invest Appalachia Fund, which has a $40 Million total target. We have attracted interest and tentative commitments from a variety of actors, including Foundations, Family Offices, Insurance Companies, Corporate Charities, Banks, and Impact Investors. Capital raise is our primary focus as we aim for a launch in early 2022.


Collaborations and Partnerships

We’ve also had the chance to partner on some exciting projects that advance Invest Appalachia’s goals of supporting a high-capacity, equitable, and collaborative investment ecosystem. This ecosystem is critical to aligning the flow of capital with community priorities.

Investment Framer Cohort

IA helped to design and produce the inaugural Appalachian Investment Framer Action Cohort, a skill-building workshop series that helped 14 place-based community development practitioners build their knowledge, tools, and relationships around investment and finance. Each participant used the cohort to advance a concrete project towards investment-readiness. Many thanks to our partners at the WV Hub and LOCUS for producing the series, and to the dozen regional experts who led sessions on everything form technical assistance to business underwriting to social enterprise to downtown revitalization. Learn more here.

Solar Finance Fund

IA partnered in the development of the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund, which received an ARC POWER grant and matching funds from regional funders to create a Fund that will provide financial incentives to spur solar development in the region. The Fund provides competitive grants to cover eligible predevelopment costs for solar installations, leveraging increased investment, creating quality jobs, offsetting carbon emissions, and creating energy savings for rural anchor institutions and businesses from schools to churches to grocery stores. IA is part of the executive team for the SFF, which is a collaboration between AppVoices, Partner Community Capital, New Resource Solutions, and the Central Appalachian Network’s Clean Energy Working Group. Learn more and apply here!

Appalachia’s Investment Ecosystem

IA helped produce a report called the Appalachian Investment Ecosystem Journey, which explored the challenges that face disinvested regions and identified lessons learned from decades of collaborative work to build an Appalachian community investment ecosystem from the ground up. It summarizes 3 phases of development and highlights the critical role of key organizations and networks in building place-based capacity and shared analysis. The report was co-authored by former Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation deputy director Sandra Mikush and IA CEO Andrew Crosson, and was produced and published by the Center for Community Investment. It is presented as a dynamic, visually striking microsite –explore the story here!

Downtown Revitalization Playbook

Revitalizing downtowns is a major opportunity for transformative investment in the region. IA partnered with the Appalachia Funders Network, the Central Appalachian Network, Partner Community Capital, and a consultant team lead by E. Kentucky-based Vision Granted to produceThriving Downtowns: An Investment Playbook for Rural Appalachia.” The Playbook includes illustrative case studies, an investment glossary, a readiness assessment tool, a guide for local development teams, and an overview of investment strategies and capital types. It will be a resource for local practitioners, policymakers, funders, and investors. The Playbook will be available in January 2022.

This is an exciting time for the Appalachian region, and there is so much work to be done. Invest Appalachia is fortunate to have such an amazing network of partners who share our vision for a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient region. Thank you for all you do. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in 2022!

Andrew Crosson
CEO, Invest Appalachia

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