Introducing the Apex Project: Higher Ed’s Guide to Inclusive Economic Development

  • I want to build a new building (or rehab an existing one), on or off campus. I keep hearing about all these financing programs (like tax credits or Opportunity Zones) and “capital stacking.” What does all this mean, and how can it help me get my deal done?
  • I see the community around my institution struggling, and I want to play a role in helping to support community revitalization work. Maybe it’s a development, maybe it’s capital, maybe it’s programming — where do I start?
  • I see the community around me gentrifying rapidly, and I worry about my institution’s role in the process. What strategies can I use to help my community improve while building local wealth?
  • I want my institution to have a deeper relationship with my surrounding community — identify issues, measure impact, etc. What are some tangible ways I can do it, and what are some examples of other institutions that have?
  • I’m a local leader working with an institution and want to propose specific strategies for them to engage in any of the work described above. How do I propose those strategies, and give concrete examples of other institutions currently doing this work?
  • I’m a financial institution and want to understand how I can work with higher educational institutions to get projects done. What can I do?
  • Strengthening Institutions — as the higher ed world grapples with COVID, how can we shore up balance sheets, get projects closed, and maintain strength (or even growth) in times of uncertainty?
  • Diversifying Local Economy — how can we help local actors diversify away from traditional economic bases and capture future growth aligned with core local assets?
  • Making Local Economy More Inclusive — how can we use every resource (from procurement to access to capital to property development) to facilitate creation of wealth for traditionally underrepresented communities?
  • Interconnecting Local Economy — how can we ensure better localized supply chains, better vertical integration between local needs and university specialty disciplines (esp workforce development), and more?
  1. Sponsoring / Doing a Deal: Are there development projects you’d like to undertake on your campus, like new housing or other facilities? Are there assets you control that you’d like to monetize to create new revenue streams? Do you have property in a nearby neighborhood that you’d like to see redeveloped? If so, you’re an Opportunity Sponsor — an institution that has your own project that you’d like to bring to market.
  2. Convening Community: Are you an anchor institution for a surrounding community? Do you want to leverage that status to build a coalition to engage in resiliency work? Is there no other local group with the capacity to drive inclusive economic growth? If so, you’re a Community Convener.
  3. Anchoring Local Development: Do you want to better harness all your local spend — on vendors, programming for students, transportation, supplies, etc. — to provide economic support to projects and businesses in your community? Then you’re a local anchor.
  4. Building Local Capacity: Do you want to provide meaningful technical assistance to projects and businesses anywhere (in my community or not) without any new major financial commitments? Then you should consider being a capacity builder.
  5. Aggregating Capital: Do you want to dive into the weeds of building capital stacks, identifying funding sources, and bringing them home for projects on your campus or in your community? If so, read our description of how to be a capital aggregator.
  6. Driving (and Measuring) Impact: Does your institution have a relationship with your surrounding community, a commitment to more intentional community development, and academic or research focus on social impact and equitable systems? Then you could be a perfect impact driver.



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Alex Flachsbart

Alex Flachsbart

Founder and CEO of Opportunity Alabama