to Support Economic Revitalization Across its 17-State Footprint
Recently, Woodforest National Bank® ("Woodforest") created the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund ("Fund"), a $20 million private real estate investment fund targeting projects in the recently designated Opportunity Zones across Woodforest's 17-state footprint. The Fund will invest in real estate projects with the goal of promoting public welfare by benefitting low- and moderate-income individuals in areas designated as Qualified Opportunity Zones.
The Opportunity Zones program is a new community investment tool established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide. Opportunity Zones are low-income census tracts nominated by governors and certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. There are over 8,700 certified Qualified Opportunity Zones across the 50 states and five U.S. territories. Investors in new projects and enterprises located in Opportunity Zones can receive certain federal capital gains tax advantages.
The Fund will be managed by CEI-Boulos Capital Management, LLC, a joint venture of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a leading national Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) with a strong track record of meeting community needs in rural areas and small gateway cities, and The Boulos Company, an integrated commercial real estate firm with broad experience in capital markets and real estate development. CEI-Boulos Capital Management will work closely with Woodforest to select and review potential investments.
The Fund has adopted the Opportunity Zone Impact Reporting Framework developed by a partnership of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, the Beeck Center at Georgetown University and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The framework was created to maintain focus on Opportunity Zone investments producing positive economic and social impacts, and established standards for community engagement, transparency of investments, and other social impact criteria. In addition, the Fund has appointed a social impact advisory board made up of some of the country's leading experts on investing in low-income communities. The advisory board will provide input related to the social and environmental impacts of the Fund's proposed investments. Advisory board members include: Aisha Benson, Executive Vice President, Tru Fund Financial Services, Inc.; Betsy Biemann, Chief Executive Officer, CEI; Lisa Hall, Fair Finance Lead, Fellow-in-Residence; Beeck Center, Georgetown University; Marten Jenkins, President and CEO, Natural Capital Investment Fund; Buzz Roberts, President and CEO, National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders; and Noelle St.Clair, Community Development Relationship Manager (advisory board chair), Woodforest National Bank.
The Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund will invest in commercial real estate developments that help to create good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and more broadly, shared prosperity through an extensive evaluation process of both developers and developments in Woodforest's core markets across its 17-state footprint. Potential projects include office, retail, hospitality, industrial, multi-family and mixed-use properties, particularly those that expand workforce and/or affordable housing, incorporate LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards and/or alternative energy, support "main street" revitalization, and provide shared space and services to non-profits serving communities with low incomes.
Jay Dreibelbis, Woodforest's President and CEO, added: "Creating this fund gives us more opportunities to support inclusive economic development and revitalization across our entire 17-state footprint," He continued, "We are committed to working with CEI-Boulos Capital Management and others to make an impact locally for the communities where we live and work. We hope this innovative fund can be a model for other banks to ensure investments in Opportunity Zones are focused on community needs that economically empower underserved communities."
"We're thrilled to be working with Woodforest National Bank on this innovative fund to invest in high-impact real estate projects across the bank's service territory," said Sam Spencer, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of CEI-Boulos Capital Management.
Celebrating 39 years of community banking service, Woodforest National Bank has successfully stood among the strongest community banks in the nation, proudly offering outstanding customer service since 1980. Woodforest currently operates over 700 branches in 17 states across the United States. For more information about Woodforest National Bank, please visit www.woodforest.com
Since 1977, CEI has focused on growing good jobs, supporting environmentally sustainable enterprises and achieving shared prosperity. The firm is a nationally respected Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and Community Development Corporation (CDC), integrating financing, business and industry expertise, and policy advocacy. CEI's for-profit subsidiary, CEI Capital Management (CCML) is one of country's largest and most experienced investors in low-income areas across the country using New Markets Tax Credits. CCML currently manages a $500 million portfolio and has invested over $1 billion in markets from Maine to Hawaii since its inception.
Founded in 1975, The Boulos Company is Northern New England's largest commercial real estate firm, serving owners, investors and tenants through brokerage, property management and investment advisory services. Boulos also has an extensive national Opportunity Zone deal-flow network through the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR) and Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM Institute).