Big health-insurance company and major health-care foundation among lead investors in Invest Appalachia venture-capital fund

Kentucky Health News

Two big players in health care are the major financiers of a venture-capital firm that calls itself “a regional social investment platform” for Eastern Kentucky and most of Appalachia. Invest Appalachia says it “has secured $19 million of new investment” and is already investing in projects.

The fund’s press release says 90% of the money is “new capital from outside the region,” which it defines as as the Appalachian counties of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Ohio, and it has a target of $40 million by November. The lead investors are UnitedHealth Group, a big insurance company, which has put in $10 million; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a major funder of health research and projects; and the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state agency that serves 54 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. The release did not list ARC’s and RWJF’s amounts.

Andy McMahon, a vice president of UnitedHealth, said, “Advancing health equity and addressing social needs like housing and access to health care in rural and underserved areas is an integral part of making the health-care system better for everyone. We are fortunate to work with partners like Invest Appalachia, who really understand the rich culture of Appalachia and are creating new ways to address community needs to improve quality of life and health.”

Zoila Jennings, impact investment lead with the foundation, said “Invest Appalachia is pioneering regionally controlled creative capital solutions in Appalachia that support inclusive economic growth for the region and offer new opportunities for national investors. We see the Invest Appalachia Fund as an innovative model for foundations and other impact investors who want to get capital to the people and places that need it most.”

CEO Andrew Crosson told The Rural Blog that his fund has invested in real estate for downtown revitalization, “support for consumer and business lending for flood-impacted communities” in Eastern Kentucky, “solar and energy efficient equipment for a rural grocery store, and expansion of rural eye care clinics.” He said in an email that he couldn’t give specifics because “these deals aren’t public yet” but said his priorities are “downtown revitalization/community-focused real estate, solar and energy efficiency for rural businesses and institutions, and community health facilities and social enterprises.”
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