Far from the madding crowd

The focus for infrastructure needs, particularly as the process of urbanisation gathers momentum, is frequently on cities. A recent announcement in the US therefore serves as a welcome reminder of the requirements of rural communities.

The White House Rural Council recently announced the creation of the US Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund to invest in hospitals, schools, water and wastewater systems, energy projects, broadband expansion, local and regional food systems and other infrastructure across rural communities in the US. The announcement was made at the Council’s first-ever Rural Opportunity Investment (ROI) Conference in Washington DC.

CoBank, a national cooperative bank serving rural communities and a member of the Farm Credit System, is the fund’s anchor investor, having committed $10 billion, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a statement.

Washington DC-based Capitol Peak Asset Management will manage the fund and will look to attract more investors, including pension funds, endowments, foundations, and other institutional investors while the USDA and other federal agencies will help identify appropriate rural projects.

“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,” said Tom Vilsack, USDA Secretary and Chair of the White House Rural Council.

“With new efforts like this we can move beyond existing programmes and help encourage substantial private investment in projects that grow the economy and improve quality of life for millions of Americans,” he said.

Projects may be funded entirely through private capital. Alternatively, private dollars may leverage and extend critical government loan and grant programmes, according to a White House fact sheet on the initiative.