Increasing investment in renewable energy and the closing down of coal power plants signal bright moves to a cleaner, greener future. But a future "beyond coal" may seem less bright for communities whose economic activity and local employment depend on it. For these people and places, a post-coal move implies a frantic search for industry and employment opportunities to prevent economic regression.
Appalachia, a region in the Eastern United States stretching from New York to Alabama and home to 25 million people, is a community with an answer. Through a mixture of philanthropic and private capital, this multi-state stretch is making up to USD 50 million available for "new locally driven economic activities" and spearheading an innovative approach to sustainably safeguard economic development .
Invest Appalachia, an impact fund managing USD 40 million in assets, will offer loans to local businesses and intermediaries by the end of the year. Sectors covered include agriculture, food, clean energy, housing and health. A second pool of capital from philanthropic sources will make a further USD 17 million available to catalyze industry and green growth.
Commenting on this exciting and innovative development framework that relies on a combination of private and public capital pools and collaboration with communities and local enterprises, Stephanie Randolph CEO of Invest Appalachia remarked "The puzzle is too big … To be self-sustaining, Appalachia needs diverse strategies as well as increased investment and sequencing of capital across the funding and financing spectrum."
With Invest Appalachia launching later in the year, it remains to be seen how the approach could act as a blueprint for communities around the world facing a post-coal future.