The White House Rural Council recently announced the creation of the new U.S. Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund through which private entities can invest in job-creating rural infrastructure projects across the country. An initial $10 billion has been committed to the fund by its anchor investor, CoBank, a national cooperative bank and a member of the Farm Credit System. The Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and lending associations specifically chartered to serve agriculture and the U.S. rural economy, is an essential provider of credit to agriculture and rural America. Target investments will include hospitals, schools and other educational facilities, rural water and wastewater systems, energy projects, broadband expansion, local and regional food systems, and other rural infrastructure. Capitol Peak Asset Management will manage the new fund.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies will help to identify rural projects that could be potential beneficiaries of financing through this new fund and other private sources.
“This fund represents a new approach to our support for job-creating projects across the country,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary and Chair of the White House Rural Council. “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.”
The Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund will allow America’s rural economy to continue its forward momentum by enhancing access to capital for rural infrastructure projects and speeding up the process of rural infrastructure improvements. The fund is immediately open for business and more investors can now add to the initial $10 billion in available capital. The fund will allow a wide variety of new participants, including pension funds, endowments, foundations and other institutional investors that have not traditionally had access to these markets to invest in rural development. In some cases, projects may be funded entirely through private-sector dollars. In others, private dollars may be leveraged with and extend critical government loan and grant programs.
The new Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund and the White House Rural Council’s Rural Opportunity Investment Conference are part of the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to spark additional private investment in rural communities through private-sector sources or through public-private partnerships like the new fund announced today. For example, USDA announced the $150 million Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC) earlier this year, which allows the USDA to help facilitate private equity investments in innovative agriculture-related businesses. This public-private partnership will have a tangible positive impact on the rural economy and can be a model of how government can serve as a catalyst for private investment in rural America.
“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 bioeconomy will require continued investment in rural places,” Vilsack said. “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.”