Impact Investing | January 13, 2023

Impact Briefing: How the Milken Institute is connecting disadvantaged communities with critical project development financing

Isaac Silk
ImpactAlpha Editor

Isaac Silk

The historic buildout of low-carbon and sustainable infrastructure is on. Spurring this climate action is hundreds of billions in federal spending in the infrastructure bill, the CHIPS act and the inflation reduction act. 

Ensuring that communities can take advantage of the once-in-a-generation opportunity, as well as the existing $4 trillion municipal bond market, was a focus of the Milken Institute’s Public Finance Forum in Washington this week. 

“Aligning that spending, thinking about the new 21st century infrastructure needs, and in particular connecting communities that are less able to access federal grant and loan programs and pursue the opportunities around low carbon and more equitable outcomes has been a key focus of the conference,” said Dan Carol, Senior Director in the Milken Institute’s Center for Financial Markets.

Their solution? The Community Infrastructure Center, a new portal that launched this week to connect communities with public and private financing for local, green infrastructure projects.

Carol and his colleague Rachel Halfaker, Associate Director at the Center, joined Brian Walsh on this week’s Impact Briefing to dive into the launch of the portal.

Milken has been exploring the role of public finance and private markets in building sustainability, equity, and climate resilience into America’s economic development and infrastructure systems. For many communities, just getting to the point where funding is possible can be a challenge. 

“One of the big mandates that we had as a part of the design of this platform was to support communities, particularly distressed and underserved communities, in navigating those really mission critical pre-development activities that come before communities can even apply for different grant opportunities that they may be eligible for,” said Halfaker.

Milken was instrumental in lobbying for the inclusion of $4 billion in pre-development funds as part of the IRA.  

Institutional opportunity

The scale of the opportunity is huge, both for local communities and investors of all stripes. 

“What’s really exciting being at the Milken Institute is we have a $30 trillion asset owners network of major institutional players that generally can’t afford to look at projects below $200 million in size, but are very interested in the emerging returns and opportunities and the community scale beat,” said Carol. The institute is exploring how to combine or bundle projects for big investors.  

With the launch of the portal, Milken plans to link institutional, public and other capital providers to a pipeline of projects in communities that have historically struggled to benefit from infrastructure funding.

“We’re certainly seeing a lot of major private equity firms and other investors bidding up utility scale solar and wind and this new generation of community infrastructure center projects. As we get that moving, there’s gonna be a lot more interest in it.”