LISC has named George Ashton as its new managing director for strategic investments. He plans to lead LISC’s work on Opportunity Zones with a clear-eyed view of the potential for community gains—focusing not just on how much capital can be raised, but on deploying it in ways that fuel lasting benefits for residents. “We are going to drive opportunities that make sense for places we are trying to serve and the systems that we are trying to change,” noted Maurice A. Jones, LISC president and CEO.
NEW YORK (Dec. 5, 2018)— A national social enterprise that has invested nearly $20 billion in underinvested American communities has named a top investment executive to lead its work on Opportunity Zones—driving ambitious plans to fuel growth and raise standards of living across the country.
This week, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) named George Ashton as its new managing director of strategic investments. Ashton will pursue a range of high-impact investments that create jobs, fuel small businesses, revitalize commercial areas, improve housing, expand local incomes and make communities safer and stronger.
LISC has been providing capital and expertise to communities for nearly 40 years, working through local program offices in more than 30 metropolitan areas and a rural investment program that touches thousands of counties. LISC has invested capital in every state in the country. Opportunity Zones, enacted as part of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, create a powerful new incentive for new capital to flow into communities.
“Opportunity Zones could prove to be one of the most powerful community investment tools we’ve ever seen from the federal government, and we are assembling a first-rate team to direct our strategies at both the local and national levels,” noted Maurice A. Jones, LISC president and CEO. “We are going to drive opportunities that make sense for places we are trying to serve and the systems that we are trying to change. That’s why George is so compelling. He has spent his whole career doing just that.”
“With its (LISC) deep local footprint and decades of community investment experience, LISC is uniquely positioned to connect impact investors with projects that deliver significant quality-of-life gains for residents and promising returns to investors,” Ashton said. “We can help ensure Opportunity Zones live up to their promise and at the same time prove the value of community investing to a whole new class of investors.”
Ashton recently served as co-founder and president of Sol System, a Washington, D.C.-based renewable energy investment firm. There, he worked closely with multinational banks, insurers and energy providers on innovative funds and financial structures, deploying more than $1 billion in tax equity, cash equity and debt over the last decade into renewable energy. The firm was named one of the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies™ in the United States for six consecutive years.
Previously, Ashton worked as a senior account executive at Fannie Mae, where he structured and traded mortgage portfolios, and prior to that he was a senior financial consultant at Arthur Anderson, building new financial models to save the Medicare system in Puerto Rico. He also founded a private investment group, HOPE Investments, to provide capital, management and strategic support to entrepreneurs of color.
That depth of experience will prove vital as Ashton manages a multi-dimensional Opportunity Zone effort that ranges from raising capital to managing third-party funds to collaborating with city and state officials on ways to maximize the long-term impact of this new source of capital, Jones said.
“George understands how to manage new and complex investment structures. He has deep experience with housing investments. And he knows how to catalyze small businesses, having grown one himself,” Jones explained. “All of those sectors are critical to our Opportunity Zone strategy; all of those are critical to the urban and rural communities where we work.”
In addition to his many professional accomplishments, Ashton volunteers his time for a variety of Washington, D.C.-area organizations, including the Washington Jesuit Academy and the HERO Initiative, both focused on youth education; Community Ministries of Rockville, which addresses the housing and financial needs of homeless and formerly incarcerated people; and Grid Alternatives, a non-profit providing free solar installations to families in need and training workers from underserved areas to install those systems.
Ashton is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, with a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics. He earned his MBA from the University of Maryland. He can be reached in LISC’s Washington, D.C. office at (202) 785-2908 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.