Transformative 25 logosCenter President Rob Riley has blogged about the need to change the way people approach impact investing.

We're delighted that Jennifer Astone, an advocate for integrated capital, has included our Northern Forest Fund in her "Transformative 25" list of "visionary funds and fund managers who are forging the future that we need.

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By Rob Riley

Over the past year, I’ve heard two very different narratives about rural America. The first is that rural people face enormous economic and social challenges and the federal government does little to help them. The second is that the coronavirus pandemic has turned rural places into refuges where the urban elite—with the ability to work high-paying jobs from anywhere—can use their wealth to bypass failings in rural infrastructure. In either scenario, today’s rural public policy is coming up short.  

As Covid19 upended urban places and economies, people found space and safety in rural communities. For many towns, this is the first influx of new (potential) residents in years; for some it has been a generation since their populations increased. This movement and the current attention to rural America presents an opportunity to rethink and restructure how we invest in healthy rural places.   

President-elect Biden, who pledged to serve all Americans, can respond boldly to address the needs of large swaths of rural America where people feel left behind. In the first 100 days of his administration, he can prove that he wants to see real change and will act to secure broader prosperity.

By Rob Riley, Center President

“Local” is more important to us than ever before, as we hunker down to stem the spread of the coronavirus. As people, we’re good at adapting. Doesn’t mean we like it, but we can shift to support local restaurants through take-out or watch events on-line.

But is this enough to sustain community through this crisis? Of course not. We need to think about not only how to make it through, but how to come back better. This time of disruption begs bold responses. Top of my list would be ensuring that we can align our investments (literally, our retirement account or investment portfolio) with what’s happening in our own towns and communities.  

If you’re in the stock market, things look relatively good right now; if you’re not, things look quite uncertain. Likewise, some communities’ budgets are challenged by pressures from the pandemic, while others benefit from high property values based on second homes. Communities left behind in transitioning economies —where Covid-related budget crises lead to fewer basic services, limited investments in infrastructure, and lost potential — need investment and present unique opportunities.

It’s time to drive deep, meaningful community change.

By Rob Riley, Center President

The Center’s board and staff met for our third virtual board meeting at the end of June, and while we can take care of business this way, we are itching to get back to meeting face-to-face in the Northern Forest region. We’re eager to walk through the woods, communities, and businesses to hear directly from those we serve – entrepreneurs, community leaders, and other stakeholders – who are working for a New Forest Future.

Though we couldn’t be physically out in the region, we brought a sampling of voices and perspectives to our meeting, albeit virtually, through partners who shared the challenges and opportunities the global pandemic has created for them. We heard about concern of the unknown, the loss of daily community connections, and heart-wrenching decisions business owners have had to make to enable their businesses to survive long term, even at the near-term cost of people’s livelihoods. 

Andrew Pearce and bowlWe learned about entrepreneurial spirit from Andrew Pearce, owner of Andrew Pearce Bowls, a Hartland, Vermont-based wood products company, who immediately shifted his emphasis from wholesale and retail-store sales to web-based sales and promotion, realizing a dramatic increase in revenue for this May compared to May 2019.