McKnight Foundation

Impact Investing Program Helps Provide Technical Assistance to Small Businesses in Appalachia

An Interview with Aimee Witteman, Program Director Midwest Climate & Energy Program at the McKnight Foundation

Why is your foundation supporting just transition work in coal communities?

As part of its goal to accelerate the growth of a clean energy economy in the upper Midwest, the McKnight Foundation recognizes the need to support people whose communities depend heavily on fossil fuel jobs and tax revenue so that no one is left behind. The Midwest is home to many aging coal power plants; the goal of the transition work that McKnight supports is to empower local people to design and implement action plans that diversify their local economy.

What is your foundation’s specific area of focus or role within the broader transition movement?

In addition to supporting a clean energy economy and just transition through its grantmaking program, in 2013, the McKnight Foundation established a flexible impact investing program with $200 million, or 10 percent of the Foundation’s $2 billion endowment. Through the impact investment program, in late 2015, McKnight made a $1 million loan to the Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF). In turn, NCIF loans the money and provides technical assistance support to help small businesses grow in nine central Appalachian and southeastern states.

Why has your foundation decided to support the Just Transition Fund?

The McKnight Foundation supports the Just Transition Fund because of its technical assistance services and robust network of specialized private consultants and nonprofit economic and community development experts. By bringing together experts working on transition from various parts of the country, the Just Transition Fund is creating a vibrant learning community from which McKnight and its partners and grantees benefit.