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Heartland Participates in 10,000 Communities Midwest Regional Rally Up

On June 14, 2023, as part of the Milken Institute’s 10K Communities Initiative and its Midwest Regional Rally Up, Heartland Capital Strategies (HCS) hosted a Sustainable Finance Hub “anchor event” in Cincinnati, Ohio, drawing 70 regional and national stakeholders. Our goal for the event was to convene sustainable investors, labor, community leaders and business partners to foster a collaborative approach to best position the Midwest-Upper Appalachian region to compete for the historic clean infrastructure funds ushered in by the Biden Administration and Congress.


The event was launched by a robust presentation by stellar leaders of the Biden Administration, kicked off by:

  • Karen Skelton (left), Senior WH Policy Advisor, Office of Clean Energy, Innovation, and Implementation

  • Jigar Shah (middle), Director of DOE Loan Program Office (LPO), who is overseeing a $400 billion fund

  • Jennifer Garrison (right), Senior Policy advisor to ARC Co-Chair

Ms. Skelton discussed the historic nature of the Biden investments through stacked tax credits, loans, and other incentives. Mr. Shah elaborated on how to unlock the transformative investments through the loans and stackable incentives. The DOE's Loan Programs Office deploys loans and loan guarantees for clean energy, advanced transportation, tribal energy projects, and technology commercialization. Ms. Garrison closed out the session discussing ARC's community-capacity building initiative providing flexible funding around nonprofits, community foundations, local governments, and local development districts. ARC serves 13 states, 423 counties, and 26 million people.


Dana Kuhnline, Campaign Director Reimagine Appalachia, began the discussion focusing on the community and labor aspects IRA and BIL. Jeremy Richardson, Manager in the Carbon-Free Electricity Program, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) focused on the IRA's tax credits and new investments set to accelerate the transition to clean energy. Keisha Austin, Head of Community at Rewiring America, spoke about a new consumer outreach and education campaign to connect American households with IRA rebates and tax incentives to go electric


Oliver Kroner, Director, City of Cincinnati Office of Environment & Sustainability, outlined the goals of the Cincinnati region: a 50% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, 100% carbon neutral by 2050. Implementation will include 28 solar installations at city facilities, 1st Net-Zero police station, and a 100% Green Energy Community Choice Aggregation. Adam Sokoloski, Director of Regulatory/Legislative Affairs of EDF Renewables described the in-progress Fox Squirrel Solar Project (ground-mount solar photovoltaic) in Madison County, Ohio, a partnership with LiUNA planning to deliver 577 MW of clean renewable energy to the utility grid by the end of 2024.

Ron DeLyons, CEO, Creekwood Energy, outlined how they are assisting their client, City of Cincinnati, in achieving its goal of transitioning to 100% clean and renewable energy through optimization of exiting energy assets, fixed price solar and single-point process management. Ron described the in-progress New Market Solar Project, the largest municipal solar project east of the Mississippi, spurred by the city’s procurement of 100 MW. The project will generate 160 construction jobs, including IBEW union jobs, and save the city $3 million a year. New Market was a partnership with Hecate Energy. Flequer Vera, CEO Sustainenergy, highlighted many of the successes of this unionized worker-owned company, not only in retrofitting buildings and marketing unique strategies sustainable and scalable to improve energy efficiencies in Greater Cincinnati, but by creating a business that is humane and replicable.

Sara Guice, Construction Market Representative at LECET, the LiUNA joint management program, shared a video highlighting the members who are working on the current Fox Squirrel Solar Project with EDF. Len Jornlin, Optimize Renewables, closed the session by identifying the right mix- renewable energy technology blends, public-private capital blends and applied learning and workforce development to kick-start resilient micro-grids in the Appalachian region. Optimize has developed a $149 million portfolio of city, university, and business micro-grids.


Moderator, Thalia Lankin, Chief Strategy Officer, AFL -CIO Investment Trust began the panel by focusing on the importance of reinvesting labor’s capital in growing the clean economy and rebuilding cities. Eric Dixon, Senior Researcher of the Ohio River Valley Institute addressed the scope of the housing crisis in Kentucky and the gap between funds to rebuild flood damaged homes and the $500 million to $1 billion estimates of the cost to rebuild. Roger Krulak, CEO Full Stack Modular focused on the expansion of cost-effective union-friendly, environmentally friendly modular housing to alleviate the current and future housing crisis faced in Appalachia. Reese May, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, SRP USA closed the panel discussing the Recovery Acceleration Fund (RAF), that aims to rebuild housing for the most vulnerable HUD-qualified homeowners.


Moderator, Grant Ervin, Director ESG and Innovations, S & B USA noted the Appalachian region has more than its share of brownfields, abandoned mines, closed power plants and dislocated workers. He challenged the panelists to discuss ways to move the Appalachian region to net zero, return dislocated workers to family-sustaining jobs and clean up brownfields. J. Brady Gutta, Director of Center for Sustainable Mine Land (WVU) described the current projects of the ACT (Appalachian Climate Technology) NOW Coalition funded by a $62.8 million+ Build Back Better (BBB) competitive grant from the US EDA, with coupled with $26 million in cost share​. Dan Conant, CEO of Solar Holler, described the successes of his company, a founding partner in the ACT NOW Coalition. In 2016, SH launched the first solar financing programs, when no one else thought twice about the region, and in 2020, worked with IBEW to unionize the installation crews. Now with 109 full-time employees, they are now installing an average of 700 projects.


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