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Jul 10, 2023
A Boston-based company is promising to work alongside Williamsport and Lycoming County officials to invest $20 million of its capital into city opportunity zones, provided the local match amounts to $5 million.
Arctaris Impact Investors LLC of Boston, Massachusetts, has captured the attention of Williamsport City Council as well as the Lycoming County commissioners, Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce and First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania.
Arctaris has experience in both debt and opportunity zone equity investments.
“It’s essentially private money brought to the table,” Council President Adam Yoder said before the rest of council approved on first reading a resolution to potentially invest $1.25 million as local match, contingent upon the other partners chipping in with their equal amounts.
Where the funding will come from in the city remains undecided as the solicitors work through legal language of the contract.
The firm manages funds that invest in growth-oriented operating businesses and community infrastructure projected in underserved communities, according to its discussion with a company spokesman and the city economic revitalization committee.
For example, it specializes in investing in zones that might be experiencing “food deserts,” where grocery store access is not readily available and other infrastructure and improvements in underserved communities with opportunity zones.
Money could be spent in community-centric real estate, downtown revitalization projects, such as mixed-use commercial and residential, and construction that supports healthcare.
To do this, the company will invest $20 million of its own capital and $5 million of local match capital for a combined $25 million.
So far, commissioners and council approved resolutions signaling interest in the program that includes the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce and First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania Inc. in the joint venture.
“Arctaris identified Williamsport as a good fit for what it does,” Councilman Randy Allison said.
“There will be short-term realizations, but we are really building for the future beyond where this council is in place, so the city itself is going to be more stable, more fruitful and have more development,” Allison said.
He hoped the investment by the city, $1.25 million for match, that would be equal to what the county, chamber and foundation invest, would result in developments and projects that serve some demographics the city has not traditionally focused on.
Councilwoman Bonnie Katz said it was exciting to see the opportunity. She believed the company’s expertise in these areas will bring growth for the city.
“I think we will do really well,” Katz said.
“A wise person plants seeds of a tree that they know they may not bask in the shade of,” Councilman Vincent Pulizzi said, sharing the sage quote.
Councilwoman Liz Miele said this is for the long- haul not the short-term gain, a concept that she said has failed for too long in Williamsport as a whole.
“I think this is an exciting project,” she said, adding that having an “outside set of eyes” and what will work here will hopefully be “advantageous.”
Targeted areas
The business focuses on investing in areas not typically invested in by private equity and private investment firms and the reality is they are not in it to volunteer.
“They’re looking to make a profit,” Yoder said. “But they are not looking to make the profits that they essentially could make investing in New York, Chicago, which are the traditional investment areas, where you see a lot of private equity investments,” he said.
Specifically, this group takes advantage of opportunity zones that are littered across the nation.
Initially, the foundation initially came across this opportunity, Yoder said.
What’s at stake?
The local match is what is lost initially should an investment not succeed, Yoder explained.
“It is commonly referred to as ‘First In, Last Out,’” Pulizzi said. He added: “Meaning that our money is going to go in, but there is no guarantee that we will get our investment back.”
Their primary of any capital gains automatically goes first to their primary investors first, Pulizzi noted and if there is any return it will be paid back to the city.
Pulizzi said he asked an Arctaris official specifically if a city invested and had not received their return on investment and the spokesman said he did not recall any instance in which a municipality’s investment was not returned.
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