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Focus Areas

The lab’s initial study and exploration will focus on impacting three key areas:

Shaping a new paradigm

The Nowak Lab will study and tease out the latest innovations in metro finance and regularly publish its findings to help corporate, civic and government leaders at both the macro and metro scale understand and leverage the potential of the new public/private/civic financing models emerging in the United States, Europe and beyond.  We will set the broad context for the inclusive financing challenges and opportunities facing U.S. cities and metros in the coming decades and identify the innovative ways their networks of leaders are responding to these challenges and opportunities while challenging the shortcomings of traditional government and private sector actions. We will also explore ways in which innovative instruments, intermediaries and institutions can become the market norm rather than the exception through the development of seasoned data and analytics, standards and models for routinized investment and propose ways in which government at all levels can better leverage private and civic investment through innovative public finance (e.g., loan guarantees, co-insurance, new entrepreneurial institutions and programs) and other supportive actions (e.g., creative regulation, land use and zoning, including tracking and measuring successes and obstacles. Importantly, The Nowak Lab’s work will aim to catalyze impact, laying out new financial products and institutional models that can be put to use.  Our reports would be practitioner-led and subject to practitioner review, so that practical concerns around the design, finance, delivery and governance of transformative investments are adequately addressed. 

Studying and sharing existing solutions

The Nowak Lab will provide deep, objective research on proven financial instruments, intermediaries and institutions that have emerged to advance the inclusive city.  We’ll capture and codify the best structural solutions and then explore ways in which these solutions could be adapted to cities with different legal systems, governance structures and economic starting points. The Lab will dig deeply into existing models like public asset corporations and emerging intermediaries that aggregate the collective market power of cities to negotiate with large financial institutions to co-invent new instruments that advance sustainable and inclusive growth and protect the interests of cities and their citizens. Our goal is to build a body of deep research around a proven solution (e.g., the public asset corporation) to enable large-scale adaptation and adoption.

Forging new solutions for large scale investment in the future

The Nowak Lab will focus on important financing challenges for intensive review and problem solving. Our first foray will investigate the vast potential of Opportunity Zones, which, when paired with thoughtful planning and local leadership alignment, could catalyze new forms of inclusive urban investment and growth. The Nowak Lab is working in partnership with Accelerator for America and a network of first-mover cities to invent an Investment Prospectus, a market tool that enables cities to showcase their economic assets and strategic location to attract market-oriented investment.  The Lab is also exploring innovative ways in which this tax advantaged capital (and other sources of impact investing) can be used to finance the build-out of anchor-based innovation districts and the production, preservation and recapitalization of affordable housing.  Given the significant interest among many private investors in this new incentive, it is possible that Opportunity Funds will attract tens of billions of dollars in private capital, making this one of the largest economic development programs in U.S. history.