Alex Ray, Principal & National Practice Lead – Education
For more than 12 years, Alex has provided his clientele with turn-key strategic solutions for capital planning, campus resiliency, and sustainability infrastructure across the public institutional sectors, as well as commercial and industrial markets throughout the Southeastern United States. He has a documented portfolio of expertise in delivering future-ready infrastructure services focused on the long-term capital needs of the clients he serves. Alex has leveraged his expertise in public higher education to deliver over $110MM in self-funded infrastructure, sustainability, and renewable energy projects in his home state of Arkansas, a project portfolio generating over $237 million in energy and O&M taxpayer savings for the people of Arkansas. His portfolio in Arkansas alone will sequester a minimum of 1.25 million tons of CO2 from the State’s water and air.
Alex responded to a series of five questions regarding current market trends and opportunities.
What trends do you see in a market that affects Viridis clients and how do you adjust for them?
One thing everyone knows for sure as they look across the institutional markets, administrators and leaders cannot continue with “business as usual.” Material, labor, and utility costs are up. Skilled trades employees are hard to find and even harder to keep. The workers we do have are nearing closer to retirement daily, and the buildings and infrastructure we’re deploying in the U.S. are steadily more and more technologically complex. Something’s got to give!
Thankfully, as markets are rapidly changing, so also is the private sector “rising to the occasion” to provide alternative models to design, finance, implement, and sustain significant capital infrastructure. Viridis Initiative is one such innovation. Our bespoke approach, or, each deal is totally unique, “Infrastructure-as-a-Service” (IaaS) model allows for maximum flexibility and customization in how we engage our clients in turnkey, single-source delivery of all manner of campus infrastructure – there’s a lot more to deferred maintenance, capital planning, sustainability, and decarbonization than just traditional energy infrastructure.
IaaS is a new and innovative contracting methodology burgeoning across North America and Europe. We are at the cutting edge of the market and that means optimum value for our clients. That excites me the most!
What is the best advice you can give clients who are looking into Viridis’ services?
Look for partners who CAN or WILL deliver on both the short-term and long-term needs and vision of your stakeholders. Everybody wants to line up for long-term deals. The short-term or flexible needs aren’t always as easy to wrap into the “traditional” as-a-service offering, but frankly, they usually solve the most pressing needs in a client’s vision. I really like that our approach doesn’t look like the “traditional” offering.
Whether it’s funding deferred maintenance at scale, deploying renewables, meeting sustainability targets, helping clients’ roadmap to net zero, deploying or converting fleets to electric vehicles (EV), or even helping our clients fundamentally change how or who operates their plants/assets, I encourage my clients to find the model partner who will help implement short-term needs and still be flexible as the market changes and evolves in the mid-to-long-term.
What are the top outcomes you’re hoping to drive for clients?
American infrastructure is reaching the end of useful life, and gross inefficiency, at an alarming rate. We have an aging and retiring workforce that is not being replenished at a similar rate. Increasing market costs are everywhere, including the skyrocketing cost of capital. All of this is compounded by growing pressure from auditors and rating agencies to reduce debt service and increase cash on hand. Holy smokes!
I regularly see all those things creating an inflection point where organizational leaders must start making milestone adjustments in how they plan, implement, and operate their organizations – That’s where we arrive! In this cost-sensitive environment, I want to deliver client outcomes without burdening their CFOs to simply borrow or raise capital to achieve their infrastructure goals and needs. We’re not doing anything the way we used to, including financing, so I love seeing the Infrastructure-as-a-Service model go to work knocking back some of these problems for the clients we serve.
What is Viridis to you and why should clients care?
From my seat today, Viridis Initiative will be American Higher Education’s preeminent, long-term, strategic infrastructure partner focused on developing and delivering collaborative financial and operational outcomes for our clients.
We provide an opportunity for our clients to team with that long-term strategic infrastructure partner that everyone wants, but who also has the expertise and experience to plan and implement short-term needs or outcomes in very thoughtful and incremental ways. We don’t want to be just another contractor, and we won’t be a vendor. We sit at the table, with skin in the game, helping develop and implement the needed strategies and plans as our clients communicate them.
Legacy is about building vision—what is your legacy you’d like to leave with your clients?
I want to use the Viridis team’s hyper-focused expertise to walk our clients, hand-in-hand, to the vision they see for their institution. My goal is that 5-10-15 years down the road, in our client’s board rooms across the Country, there is an internal dialogue going on that culminates in discussions about how Viridis not only delivered on our commitments but how we’ve created real, lasting, meaningful institutional value, as they see it.