Tacoma’s Special Energy Makes It a Great Place for Impact Investing
Toby Levey recognized a special kind of energy at work in Tacoma not long after he moved to the region two years ago, “When you come to the Pacific Northwest, you forget very quickly that in other parts of the country, social innovation is considered an impediment to a free market; that greed in large part rules the day on real estate transactions; that the concept of partnership for innovation in development is almost unknown. Here, partnership is considered a form of development.”
Toby is VP of Real Estate Transactions at Forterra, Washington’s local land trust. He was one of four panelists who discussed impact investing at GTCF’s May 7 Professional Advisor Breakfast. Impact investing is sometimes referred to as “social capital,” “social impact,” or “place-based investing”.
The event’s keynote speaker, Dana Brakman Reiser, Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, maintains that community is at the heart of impact investing: “Pursuing both financial return and returns for society.”
The other panelists included Kathleen Simpson of the The Russell Family Foundation, Saif Hakim of community development financial institution Craft3, and Teresa Wells of Tiedemann Advisors. Each of their organizations has made a commitment to impact investment in our region. Their work relies on partnership for innovation as they align financial investments with community-focused values.
Impact investment in Tacoma and Pierce County is already creating tangible returns and mutual opportunities for communities and individuals:
- Craft3 and The Russell Family Foundation launched a joint project on Hood Canal that directly improves water quality in Pierce County. The deal led to Craft3’s Clean Water Loans, which cover the design, permitting and installation costs of residential septic systems. The innovative loan program neatly pairs Russell’s clean water grantmaking initiative and Craft3’s financial commitment to Washington’s economy, families and environment.
- Forterra is currently “under contract” for a city block in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood to provide nonprofit community space and opportunities for workforce and affordable housing. The trust’s ongoing work to buy undeveloped land in communities of color and hold or develop it in partnership with those communities prevents it from reverting to luxury condos or other “non-community-benefitting uses.”
- Craft3 details an inspiring lineup of Puget Sound impact investment success stories on its website, including that of a Pierce County Clean Water Loan recipient, and of a pair of combat-veteran entrepreneurs making flip flops at combat boot factories.
The panelists at GTCF’s May 7 Professional Advisor Breakfast offered impact investment tips and trends for professional advisors and investors:
- Do your homework: “Ask questions of yourself about what you want to solve and how you plan to do that.” “Ask a lot of questions of the organizations in which you’re investing too, including, ‘Are you representative of the change you want to see?’”
- Build trust: Advisors are “in a position to bridge the trust gap, find matches between investors and investees, and craft deals beneficial to each party, strengthening community in the process.”
- Tap into your creative side: Tacoma’s creativity sets it apart: “There’s a gritty innovation in everything from software to manufacturing, there are deep pockets in the form of several wealthy investment funds and you have that Tacoma spirit.”
- Consider the source: “More women and younger ‘Next Gen’ investors want to be more involved in their investments. Impact investment excites them.”
- You can’t change what you don’t measure: The is a need for clear metrics. “Much work is being done to identify accountability and comparability, but it is a work in progress.”
Toby Levey points out Tacoma’s “enlightened leadership, political will, and an innovative mindset” are the “three things that create the type of environment you need for social capital. Leadership in social impact capital is there for the taking. If Tacoma wants to be that, there’s nothing stopping it.”
Contact GTCF’s Philanthropy Department to learn more about including impact investing in your philanthropic strategy.