With a $10 billion inaugural commitment from national cooperative bank and Farm Credit System member CoBank, the White House Rural Council on July 24 launched the Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund. The private investment fund aims to spur good job creation across rural America by investing in infrastructure and institutional development projects.
Illustrating the symbiosis inherent in public-private partnerships, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies will help identify promising rural development projects for the fund manager, Capital Peak Asset Management. Capitol Peak, in turn, will work on recruiting additional fund participants and raising investment capital.
Stimulating rural infrastructure investment
USDA Secretary and White House Rural Council Chairman Tom Vilsack announced the rural infrastructure fund’s launch during the first White House Rural Opportunity Investment Conference in the nation’s capital. The fund’s launch builds on the $150 million Rural Business Investment Company created by President Barack Obama earlier this year.
The Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund’s remit is broad and potentially far-reaching. The types of investments it is to target include hospitals, schools and other educational facilities, rural water and wastewater systems, energy projects, broadband infrastructure, local and regional food systems, and others. Commenting on the fund’s launch, Secretary Vilsack said:
“This fund represents a new approach to our support for job-creating projects across the country. USDA and other agencies invest in infrastructure through a variety of federal initiatives, but our resources are finite and there are backlogs of projects in many parts of the economy.
“We know where investment opportunities exist, so we are in a position to help promote these projects among investors. With new efforts like this we can move beyond existing programs and help encourage substantial private investment in projects that grow the economy and improve quality of life for millions of Americans.”
Looking to broaden and deepen fund participation, the fund is open to pension funds, endowments, foundations and other institutional investors.
Elaborating on the fund’s goals, Vilsack added:
“Meeting the world’s needs for food and farm products, as well as the growing demand in areas like renewable energy, local food, and the bio-economy will require continued investment in rural places. Many major investors in urban centers aren’t always aware of the significant investment opportunities in rural communities.
“If the White House Rural Council can help facilitate even a small portion of the enormous amount of available investment capital into rural places, we can grow key industries and create jobs in rural and urban areas from coast to coast.”
Adding to the Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund and the Rural Investment Company, Secretary Vilsack said that similar new investment vehicles are in the works. For all of them, the Obama administration sees the potential for private-sector investors to capitalize on federal government resources and deliver social and environmental and economic benefits to rural communities across the U.S.
Image credit: White House Rural Council