Small businesses provide jobs that make life possible on the North Shore and they create identity. They give people a reason to visit the shore outside of the natural beauty of the place.
It’s why shopping local is so important in a small community like Grand Marais, but what about investing? We shop local, why not invest local?
In a sense, it is easier to invest in a corporation headquartered in a country halfway around the world then it is to put money towards the aging building next door. Investing locally requires more time, energy and money than most people are able to put forward, which is what makes the new Cook County Community Real Estate Fund such an exciting development.
The Cook County Community Real Estate Fund is an investment fund spearheaded by eight local community leaders—Howard Hedstrom, Ann Possis, Gary Latz, Jeff Latz, Roger Opp, Steve Surbaugh and Tim and Beth Kennedy—who make up the Cook County general partners of the fund.
They are working in partnership with REVocity; a company that specializes in creating investment opportunities for individuals, businesses and non-profits to “invest in their backyard.”
“As general partners,” says Hedstrom, “we’ve committed ourselves to putting some money in the pot, as has REVocity who will also provide all of the staffing, expertise and back-office stuff to make the fund a success.”
In addition to the general partners, the Cook County Community Real Estate Fund will comprise of “limited partners” who can participate by investing in the fund for an expected return. According to Hedstrom, the number of limited partners involved with the fund is expected to be over 100.
The idea for the real estate investment fund has its roots in the fires that rocked the Cook County community back in the early days of the pandemic.
“In the spring of 2020,” says Hedstrom, “I was helping chair a number of meetings with the owners that had lost their businesses to the fire in downtown Grand Marais. It was a tough time for the community.”
“At the time, we were reaching out to developers, Rebound Partners being one of them, which is how I first connected with Brett Reese and REVocity,” continues Hedstrom. “Even though [Reese] wasn’t able to help out with the development, we started talking about REVocity’s work with community focused investment funds, which was followed up with a series of meetings that, ultimately, led to the creation of the Cook County Real Estate Fund.”
Brett Reese is a founder and the managing partner at Rebound Partners, and one of three general partners representing REVocity in the Cook County Real Estate Fund.
Lori Bonin and Chris Kennelly are the other two REVocity general partners, Bonin being the president and Kennelly (founder) the chief investment officer.
REVocity is the seventh “vertical” within Rebound Partners—an integrated investment and management company based out of Northfield, Minn.—whose purpose, according to their website (revocity.com), is to promote growth within communities by “securing, enhancing, and managing impactful real estate investments.”
By working with community leaders to establish community real estate funds like the one that was recently incorporated in Cook County, REVocity makes it possible for individuals, non-profits and businesses to invest in “their own backyard.”
“With the minimum investment set at $25k for limited partners,” says Bonin, “the Cook County Real Estate Fund will allow a broad group of individuals and businesses to participate and invest in their community.”
“We’re going to start by pooling capital locally,” continues Bonin, “because again, that’s what is so exciting about this fund, it is the impact investing that makes it possible locally, within Grand Marais and Cook County.”
It is important to note that the Cook County Real Estate Fund is not a charity, nor is it a non-profit as the fund promises investors a return on the money that investors put forward. That being said, what makes the Cook County Real Estate Fund unique is its emphasis on community impact and its goal to devote resources to the “tougher” projects within the community, projects that would otherwise be overlooked by more traditional prospective developers.
“The point of this fund goes beyond just ‘making a profit,’” says Ann Possis, one of the eight Cook County general partners. “This is an opportunity to do good things in our community, like expanding opportunities for businesses, expanding housing and just reclaiming property that is being underutilized.”
“What we’re looking to do is current impact investing,” adds Hedstrom. “We are looking for properties that would benefit from an infusion of capital and new ideas.”
According to Possis and Hedstrom, one of the priorities of the fund is housing; something that is arguably the largest, most universal obstacle to growth in Cook County.
“We’re hoping to develop rental housing,” says Possis, “either on our own or by working with people in the county who already have things planned but lack the necessary capital to make it happen. Cook County is at a point where it can’t expand very much if we don’t have places for people working in the community to live.”
Though they were not ready to disclose specifics on any projects that the fund is working on at the time this article was written, both Possis and Hedstrom acknowledged that the fund has a number of projects that it is already actively involved with.
“There’s quite a few things in the works,” says Hedstrom. “It’s still a little too soon to divulge everything that we’re working on, but once these things pop, I think people are going to be kind of surprised and pleased.”