MINNETONKA, Minn. — UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) has committed $10 million as a lead investor in the first round of the Invest Appalachia (IA) Fund, a regional initiative launched to accelerate funding in community development across Appalachian counties in Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
The IA Fund specifically targets community health, including affordable housing, clean energy, community revitalization, and food and agriculture.
UnitedHealth Group’s investment will focus on creating affordable housing with wraparound services like health and social needs screenings, expanding access to health care in rural communities and strengthening efforts to reduce food insecurity in Appalachian communities.
“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,” said Andy McMahon, vice president, Community Engagement and Investment at UnitedHealthcare Community & State, a UnitedHealth Group business. “We are fortunate to work with partners like Invest Appalachia, which really understands the rich culture of Appalachia and is creating new ways to address community needs to improve quality of life and health.”
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) are also lead investors in the fund, with additional commitments from Cassiopeia Foundation, Laughing Gull Foundation and Sugarbush Valley Impact Investments.
The IA Fund’s investment manager is LOCUS Impact Investing.
The people of the Appalachian region face ongoing inequity, including poverty rates more than 1.5 times the national average, according to the ARC. Substance use disorders are also disproportionally prevalent across Appalachian states, which brings related challenges in reliable transportation, housing, access to care, education and employment.
“Invest Appalachia is a deeply collaborative investment model, rooted in place and designed to meet the needs of Appalachia’s underserved communities while providing a large-scale opportunity for national impact investors,” said Andrew Crosson, chief executive officer, Invest Appalachia. “While our investment dollars are important, I believe that IA’s values-based focus on inclusive economic development and ecosystem capacity is what will help create a more equitable and resilient future for the region.”
“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,” said Zoila Jennings, impact investment lead with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “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.”
“Appalachia is a region known for its creativity, hard work and long-standing tradition of people helping people,” said Gayle Conelly Manchin, ARC federal cochair. “At the Appalachian Regional Commission, the key to creating transformational growth throughout our region lies in drawing upon Appalachia’s history of collaboration. As such, we are pleased to support organizations like Invest Appalachia, which works across county and state borders to build capacity and bring new investment and vision into Central Appalachia.”