The profile of the Asheville Local Merchant Bank: It would be fundamentally a servant institution; its job would be to find the resources to get done what the change makers want and need to get done in Asheville.


It would, for example, have as one of its first infrastructure level tasks, enabling Accelerate Appalachia to become a permanent fixture in the landscape of the local economic bioregion. It would also want to enhance the viability of the Collider and of the emerging Impact Hub. It would want to enable a maker space to be set up downtown, and it would enhance the work of the Code for Asheville group. It would find the financial resources to get done what needed to be done locally as we transition through climate change, the end of cheap oil and enable us to manage down the risk of financial inequality.


I’m going to call this area, for the sake of this experiment, the Asheville Biosphere, and by that I mean pretty much what UNESCO means when they designate a region part of the 350 member global network of UNESCO Biospheres. I can go into that more, as could Tom Hatley, and Tom Gilbert, the old ranger and landscape manager who is our mentor in that work, who lives up on the mountain by Great Smoky National Park, but let’s take it for granted that the method of designating a region is done well by that group and useful for this project. The UNESCO establishes guidelines for sustainable development, and ecological revitalization and the creation of effective economic bioregion (the resource catchment area) creative destruction in a reliable and resilience producing pattern. It is a system that can be used for creating conditions that enhance biodiversity and inclusion, while creating Mission Insurance, and a non-extractive exit.


Establishing regional resonance, as Alan Bush calls it, is a good term for the goal of this servant tool, the Local Merchant Bank of Asheville (experimenting with names).


It is important to figure out how the Local Merchant Bank could help the Collider and how it could potentially help the Impact Hub that Steve Cooperman has taken the lead on.


Is it, perhaps, also worthwhile to take a look at how it would fund one single deal, like Kurt’s that’s come along? Although that is tempting, I think at this point it needs to get its role as a piece of supportive innovation infrastructure to the platforms that are already emerging; Accelerate Appalachia, the Collider, and perhaps, the Impact Hub. My son in law, Aaron has stepped away from the leadership of the Ihub and so my deep reason for being involved with that project has vanished. But I have not heard Steve’s vision; I only know him by reputation, mostly via people who worked along side him at Black Mountain Sole. So I am eager to understand what’s going on there and see if what I am imagining could be helpful to him and his team.


The simple premise is; the merchant bank goes and finds and brings back the money the community needs, or finds it among us, and it applies that financial capital, along with relationship embedded social capital, deployed through a multicultural lens and a goal of creating inclusion. Success is that the underemployed creative of Asheville make enough money to stay here. They are a phenomenal resource but always at economic risk and just can’t keep hanging on here, lots of times. I’d like to build an economy around those people, without this place becoming just a crazy burning man light down at the corner store. Or maybe it does. But what if the  underemployed creative are our future? How do we make life livable for them? What kind of city and region could we become if we made these homesteader types at home?


So, for me, that is one success metric of the bank. Are the underemployed creatives able to afford a place with their own bathroom? They might want to continue to camp out on someone’s veranda, but they could have a place with a kitchen, a bathroom and a living room along with a bedroom. One step up from studio apartment would be the median goal I would like to design the economy and the zoning and real estate plan, etc..


This merchant bank will have to serve the emerging innovation platforms, including Iron Yard. You need a tech focused accelerator to do due diligence and effective mentoring in how to optimize your app written in Ruby on Rails and make it port to other platforms effectively and do the tech world marketing you need to do, etc. It’s great they are coming here. We could get some of the apps and tech they would create to try to productize climate data focused on indigenous and marginalized people, for optimizing agriculture and forest products, and to cut the cost of disaster relief. We could focus some of Iron Yard’s efforts on creating the kinds of companies Reinventure Capital could fund, and that of our daughter fund, Better Ventures, (former intern to investment officer now going out on his own) which does tech for good, (better access, better data, better companies).



Representing two funds that want to invest in tech for good, we think it’s great that Ironyard is coming. Tech due diligence is its own world, separate from and deeply different in skill set and focus, from managing a cohort focused on nature based businesses. I think nature based businesses could be optimal field testers for the tech that comes out of Ironyard, if things go well.


Ok, that’s my report on this research project that Jane Hatley, at least has signed up to be part of. And  we are gathering case study examples of how and where the three tools (investment club, local donor advised fund pool and giving circles) have been used, and how they work. Haiz is working on that; Sara Day is sending him the stuff on investment circles from, I think the source, is Slow Money. I will hook him up with someone from Impact Assets to learn about DAF pools, and I will hook him up with Darin Peterson on giving circles.

We will produce those validated case studies in short form so Robin can use this presentation in talking about the network she wants to weave with the Collider and more.