On the Same Page: Freeport Press Hosts Lt. Governor Mary Taylor

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Director of Public Affairs Andy Hardy

Director of Public Affairs Andy Hardy

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor tours Freeport Press with Dave Sr. and James Pilcher (right). Photo courtesy of Mike Elicson/State of Ohio.

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor tours Freeport Press with Dave Sr. and James Pilcher (right). Photo courtesy of Mike Elicson/State of Ohio.

Recently, Freeport Press hosted Ohio Lt. Governor Mary Taylor and a number of funders, including Finance Fund, on a tour of the state-of-the-art printing operation located in rural Harrison County.

Finance Fund provided $6 million in New Market Tax Credit financing to enable Freeport Press to buy a state-of-the-art, high-speed Komori Systems 38-S Web commercial printing press to expand their growing business. Since its expansion, Freeport Press has become the leading employer in Freeport, OH.

The new press greatly increased productivity and ultimately allowed the company to retain 150 jobs and add 40 new positions during the economic downturn. Freeport VP of Operations James Pilcher proudly demonstrated how the printer uses the industry’s latest technology to cost-effectively produce high-quality magazines, catalogs and direct mail. In addition, Freeport Press President Dave Pilcher, Sr. shared details of how the company grew over the last few years with the assistance of many organizations including the State of Ohio with a Pioneer Rural Loan; USDA backed expansions; the Tuscarawas Port Authority; and Finance Fund. I joined representatives of these organizations on a tour of the plant alongside Lt. Governor Taylor.

 “I’m very excited to learn more about your business and see it first-hand,” Ms. Taylor said. “It’s impressive what you’ve been able to accomplish.”  She congratulated Freeport Press for creating strong partnerships that supported its success. “I appreciate the support you’ve gotten here locally,” she said. “That means a lot when you can get all the right people in the room working together, both in the private sector and the public sector, to make something like this happen and to keep it going when you face very difficult times.”

Mr. Barbash Goes to Washington

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Mark Barbash, EVP Strategic Initiatives

Mark Barbash, EVP Strategic Initiatives

Last week, I attended two conferences in Washington D.C. for economic and community development professionals. Each of these sessions raised important questions about the future of our work in communities. Each reminded me of the importance of going back to basics.

The first session was the Federal Forum of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). This annual event is where ED pros from around the country get together to network, brainstorm about new ideas, and discuss federal government policy and programs.

The second session was the biennial Community Development Research Conference (CDRC), sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board. At this conference researchers, practitioners and policy makers discussed the latest research about community problems and the effectiveness of policies and programs.

While the conferences reflected a wide spectrum of groups involved in economic and community development, there were several common themes that stood out repeatedly:

  • The focus of activity in community development continues to shift away from government and towards collaborations of public, private and philanthropic groups. While federal programs continue to be large influencers, increasingly the most creative and innovative efforts are coming from CDFIs, CDCs, foundations, banks and nonprofit organizations.
  • The emphasis by funders on demonstrating the impact – the outcome – of the work that we do will continue to increase in importance. Funders at all levels are continuing to ask that we actively measure whether we are actually helping the communities and people we serve. Measuring output – what we do – is trumped by measuring outcomes – how well we are achieving community goals.
  • This kind of measurement is incredibly difficult. Of course, we have anecdotal case studies (this company hired more workers, that community group built more affordable housing). But measuring both whether we are changing the lives of the people we serve, and also if we are changing the trajectory of the communities in which they live, is much more difficult. And the challenge is not just that it’s difficult to measure. It’s also that there are disagreements about which measures are important, whether we have the data to actually do the measurement, and in the end, what the data means for policies and programs.

I came away from these sessions with two thoughts.

First, it’s important that the work we do is measurable, accountable and transparent. Funders (both public and private) have a right to know that their resources are being used effectively.

Second, community development should be all about taking risk, about not being comfortable with the status quo, about identifying the economic needs that exist and finding ways to effectively fill those needs. By doing so, even with the difficulty of measurement, we can be more confident that the work we are doing has a positive impact on people and communities.

CDFIs Stepping Into the Breach

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Diana Turoff, Finance Fund President

Diana Turoff, Finance Fund President

According to CDFI Fund Director Annie Donovan, CDFIs are a “national treasure” thanks to their demonstrated track record of performance in proving that low-income people and communities are credit worthy. Ms. Donovan was a keynote speaker at the 2015 CDFI Coalition Institute in Washington DC which I attended to represent Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP), the nonprofit CDFI affiliate of Finance Fund. 

In her inspirational remarks, Ms. Donovan noted that during the great recession, when conventional financial institutions pulled back and accumulated cash on their balance sheets, CDFIs pushed forward to serve the needs of hard hit communities.  “With your ears to the ground and your unrelenting belief in the virtue of the people you serve, you are most often the first to see opportunities and create solutions that others miss,” she said.

At the CDFI Coalition Institute, the CDFI Fund shared findings of a research study it commissioned “CDFIs Stepping Into the Breach: An Impact Evaluation Summary Report” conducted by the University CDFI FUnd Logoof New Hampshire.

The report concludes that CDFIs are fulfilling the statutory purposes set out for them by the CDFI Fund. Specifically, “to promote economic revitalization and community development by providing credit, capital and financial services to underserved populations and communities in the United States. The study included interviews with CDFI leaders, analysis of the types of borrowers and communities served, and the types and terms of financing they are providing. This information and a comparison between CDFI Fund transaction level data with mainstream lending data, led researchers to conclude that CDFIs are indeed “filling the gaps” left by mainstream lenders.

The report praised leading CDFIs for undertaking rigorous and meaningful evaluation work in the field to measure their lending impact in addition to providing the required reporting to the Community Investment Impact System used by the CDFI Fund.

Other key findings:

  • The CDFI industry has grown substantially, leveraging investment and increasing its lending activity even in the face of a recession and cataclysmic changes in the financial environment
  • CDFIs are delivering the majority of their lending to borrowers from targeted, historically underserved groups such as low-income or minority borrowers
  • CDFIs are concentrating lending activity in census tracts with signs of distress such as high poverty of unemployment rates – much more so than conventional lenders
  • CDFIs are meeting needs for financing with “plain vanilla” products that minimize risks to the borrower (e.g., fixed rate, no balloon payments)

We welcome your inquiries about FCAP and the work we do to move transformative capital into communities of greatest need.  Feel free to email me at dturoff@financefund.org .

Some Like it Hot: CaJohn’s Heats up with FCAP Financing

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Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development

Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development


_DSC9877With tears streaming down our faces, we coughed and sputtered our way to the door of the commercial kitchen. CaJohn’s Fiery Foods was in full swing, mixing up a new hot sauce recipe using some of the hottest chili peppers in the world.  Just the smell of the freshly ground chili peppers was enough to send Amber Seitz, Finance Fund Senior Manager of Communications and Marketing, and me running for fresh air during our recent site visit. 

John “CaJohn” Hard, however, just smiled and inhaled deeply of the fiery blend of fresh ingredients and spices that has made him the “godfather of hot sauce.”  Another award-winning tongue burner was on the brew and would soon join his inventory of 200 specialty food products.

With names like Vicious Viper, Krakatoa, Liquid Stoopid, Fatalii, and Lethal Ingestion, these and other tasty scorchers have earned CaJohn’s Fiery Foods a place in the “Hot Sauce Hall of Fame.” In all, the company has won more than 600 major awards. Products are sold through retail outlets and online.

Finance Fund Capital Corporation’s (FCAP) $250,000 small business financing provided CaJohn’s with the working capital and infrastructure needed to keep growing their Westerville, OH operation. CaJohn’s employs 13 staff with plans to add 6 new hires over the next two years.

_DSC0079CaJohn has always had a taste for hot, spicy foods and enjoyed creating his own sauces, salsas and seasonings for family and friends. After winning several major national hot sauce awards and seeing increased demand for his fresh and fiery products, John and his wife Sue opened CaJohn’s Fiery Foods in 1997.

Whether Cajun, Southwestern, Asian or Caribbean cuisine, there’s a CaJohn’s hot sauce, BBQ sauce, rub, spice blend or salsa available to add original flavor or fierce fire to recipes. CaJohn’s Sancto Scorpio hot sauce, for example, is made from the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper, the hottest chili pepper on the planet scoring 1.2 million Scoville Heat Units. To ensure highest quality, product is prepared in small batches using all natural fresh peppers and select fruit, grown in Ohio whenever possible.

We invite you to learn more about small business projects financed through FCAP by visiting our website.

Broken Connections Shelter Makes Life Complete

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AmberRecently, I visited Broken Connections (BCI) in East Cleveland, which received an $86,374 economic development grant from Finance Fund to help provide emergency housing, food, clothing, education and supportive services for 75 runaway and homeless youth between the ages of 10 to 21.

This community-based nonprofit organization operates in a neighborhood that has a 40 percent poverty rate and 37 percent unemployment rate – where 38 percent of the city’s youth drop out of high school before 12th grade. Because of the city’s high poverty rate and lack of opportunity, many youth are trapped in a cycle of crime, teen pregnancy, gang involvement, drug trafficking and illiteracy.

However, BCI Executive Director Nicole Howell and her team are working to change that.

BC1

BCI offers a comprehensive list of services ranging from after-school tutoring and healthy, balanced meals to job training and money management. Many BCI kids had no role model or positive influences in their life but now can grow up to be successful adults because of the life lessons instilled in them at Broken Connections.

The work BCI does is not easy. But it is so important.

Walking into this house, I was immediately surrounded by an atmosphere of love and generosity. Nicole buzzes around the house taking care of paperwork, phone calls, preparing after-school meals and snacks, talking with children one-on-one about their day or about the importance of doing well in school. And she treats it all as a day’s work. The compassion that she has for these children and teens is incredible and will have a lasting impact on them for a lifetime.

BC2

Broken Connections operates on grant funding, donations, and when necessary Nicole makes ends meet with her own savings. If you would like to learn more, please visit http://www.brokenconnections.org/.

 

Historic Downtown Cleveland Landmark Comes to Life

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Andrew Swary, Finance Fund EVP, General Counsel

Andrew Swary, Finance Fund EVP, General Counsel

It was a great day for downtown Cleveland residents who have a taste for fresh food served up in a magnificent jewel-box of a full-service grocery store.

Heinen’s Fine Foods opened at the corner of Euclid and Ninth Avenues in the historic Ameritrust building last week before a packed crowd of local business people, public officials, foodies, neighborhood residents and media. 

Finance Fund was there as the provider of $7 million in New Markets Tax Credit financing that helped fund redevelopment of the “Rotunda” and the adjacent 1010 building – two of the three buildings in the massive complex developed by Geis Properties LLC. The project includes residential, retail, office and grocery store space.

“Downtown is a neighborhood of 13,000 residents,” said Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman, a speaker at the event. “Thanks to Tom and Jeff Heinen, your investment will help us achieve our goal of raising the number of residents in downtown Cleveland.” The store is seen as an economic driver and retail anchor that will encourage more people to live downtown and help the city realize its near-term goal of 25,000 downtown residents.  City officials also see it as a tourist destination.Fresh Veg

Parking is limited, but the store was built primarily for people who live and work in the downtown area. The store provides much-needed access to fresh foods in an economically distressed and underserved community with a poverty rate of 36.4% and unemployment at 2.25 times the national rate.

Noting the diversity of the grand opening crowd, Cimperman said, “Look around this room. This is who we are – African-American, Latino, Jewish, Catholic.” The store will employ about 80 people. It is Heinen’s 18th store in Ohio but the first to open in an urban downtown area. The customer base includes the adjacent new 9 Hotel and Cuyahoga County Headquarters with hundreds of workers. On the other side, the 1010 building offers a mix of affordable and market-rate apartments.

RotundaStreetView

The building is an architectural masterpiece originally designed by George Browne Post who also was the architect of the New York Stock RotundaExchange. Murals depicting settlers and agrarian scenes in the Midwest are framed by elaborate arches that point to a magnificent stained glass rotunda. Surrounding the central atrium are shelves and displays packed with prepared foods, meats, deli items, seafood and a “global grille.”  At lunchtime, there were long lines at the self-serve soup and salad bar, sushi and poke bar, coffee bar, prepared foods and carving stations. Fresh produce and dairy displays fill the more traditional market space in the attached building.

Wilmington Stars in State of the State Address

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Reviewing plans for the new Center.

Reviewing plans for the new Center.

Director of Public Affairs Andy Hardy

Director of Public Affairs Andy Hardy

In his State of the State address, Governor Kasich pointed to Wilmington as a shining example of a community that is making significant strides toward economic recovery after suffering devastating job loss. The county’s unemployment rate rose to 14.4 percent in 2009 after DHL US Express closed its distribution hub. With recent expansions, the County now boasts an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent. Finance Fund is honored to have participated in Wilmington’s recovery.

I joined Ohio Department of Health Director Rick Hodges as he toured the construction site of the new Wilmington College Sports Science Center at Wilmington College. Finance Fund provided $10 million in New Markets Tax Credit financing to help expand the facility and education program. It will bring approximately 37 permanent jobs and has already brought about 40 construction jobs to the area.  

In addition to job creation, the Center will be home to the College’s athletic training and sport management programs. Expanded medical services and educational facilities will provide the Clinton County area with clinical care, imaging services and physical therapy all within a single complex. Plans call for a nationally prominent orthopedic practice, outpatient physical therapy clinics and regional health care. Project partners include Beacon Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Drayer Physical Therapy and Clinton Memorial Hospital which all will have satellite locations at the Sports Science Center.

Csstour1Director Hodges said there could be partnership opportunities for the Ohio Department of Health and the College as the Sports Science Center goes online and evolves as a major educational and health care facility. It was a great privilege to join Director Hodges and his staff on their visit to the center and to hear of possible future opportunities.

As a table host at the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Finance Fund shared in discussions with General Assembly members and the Governor’s staff. The tour and the luncheon were both great events that included updates and exchanges on how Clinton County and Wilmington have achieved such remarkable success in economic recovery.

Health, Business and Economic Leaders Convene on Healthy Food Access

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Finance Fund EVP Mark Barbash

Finance Fund EVP Mark Barbash

An overflow crowd of more than 175 Central Ohio citizens joined Finance Fund for a lively panel discussion on “Turning Food Deserts into Oases” at the Columbus Metropolitan Club luncheon on February 25.

I had the honor of moderating this panel discussion, which highlighted many different activities that are being developed around healthy food access and local food systems around Central Ohio, the state and nation, along with the importance of increasing access to capital for projects.  The CMC conversation came on the heels of the release of policy recommendations to state legislators in a report prepared by The Food Trust on behalf of the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force.

The recommendations report “Supporting Grocery Development in Ohio” identified the need to establish a healthy food retail financing program in Ohio.

PanelistsPresentations by my fellow panelists highlighted some of the key issues:

  • Caroline Harries, Associate Director at The Food Trust in Philadelphia, talked about their work with the Task Force to map the state for healthy food access gaps and identify major policy and programmatic issues in Ohio. She also discussed the effectiveness of the healthy food financing program in Pennsylvania, and how this model could be applied in Ohio to improve health outcomes and promote economic development.
  • Dr. Mykeisha Williams Roberts, Deputy Health Commissioner in Columbus, talked about their work to identify health issues in the city’s neighborhoods, and specifically those that were occurring because of the lack of access to healthy foods, which contributes to diet related diseases.
  • Michelle Moskowitz Brown, Executive Director at Local Matters, discussed the important role that education plays in changing buying, cooking and food purchasing habits. She noted that Local Matters’ earliest strategy was a year-round hands on curriculum called Food Matters, which was aimed at kids, who are part of the decision making process in their households. When they learn how to grow and cook food from around the world, as they do in their classroom, their consumption increases and their choices influence the household.

In the Q & A that followed the presentations, many people supported the idea that fresh food retail is an important component of neighborhood revitalization in urban areas. Others raised important questions about the linking of urban and rural areas through local food system programs, helping farmers to produce for local consumers (rather than large commodity distributors), and other ways of improving community health.

Ohio Prioritizes Healthy Food Access

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ReportCoverToday at the Statehouse, the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force called upon Ohio’s local and state government leaders to create a culture of support for healthy food retail development in underserved communities. At the news event, the Task Force released a new policy statement Supporting Grocery Development in Ohio” including analysis and success stories.

One of the recommendations calls for state seed funding to establish an Ohio Healthy Food Financing Fund (HFFF) that would provide healthy food retailers with access to flexible financing needed to overcome the barriers associated with locating in underserved communities. This one-time funding would enable vendors to open, renovate, or expand retail outlets that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. The Fund will provide underserved Ohio communities with better access to fresh foods, quality employment opportunities, and opportunities for revitalization.

Despite Ohio’s internationally recognized agricultural and food processing activity, the state is home to many communities with too few places to purchase healthy, affordable food. This food access crisis has put over 2 million residents, including more than 500,000 children, at risk for chronic disease and diet-related death. ProduceBasketFull

Eligible healthy food projects will be located in all types of communities (urban, rural, small, and large) that are underserved in terms of food access. To qualify as eligible, projects must commit to providing fresh fruits and vegetables and serving primarily low-to-moderate income communities.

Finance Fund convened the Task Force last year. It includes 50 leaders from the health, business, civic, government, grocery, philanthropic and other nonprofit sectors, who worked for a year alongside national food advocacy expert The Food Trust to identify policy recommendations to support healthy food retail development and expansion in areas in greatest need. The 2014 report, “Food for Every Child: The Need for Healthy Food Financing in Ohio” identified urban and rural areas across Ohio where healthy food retail development is needed most.

I invite you to contact me to discuss this initiative in greater detail or find out more about investing in HFFF or developing a healthy food project at jrklein@financefund.org

Citi Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance

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Tara Campbell, VP Lending

Tara Campbell, VP Lending

In January, I joined fellow industry leaders at the first meeting of the Citi Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance. The session was filled with great insights on what other leaders are doing to impact their organizations as well as the communities their organizations serve.

The curriculum, developed by Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, offers a combination of leadership development experiences built around four key elements:

  • Transformational leadership frameworks and tools
  • Applying transformational leadership to the opportunity finance industry
  • Understanding leadership and management
  • Building effective teams to lead transformational change

The first session focused on why community development financial institutions, known as CDFIs, exist and our role as leaders within our organizations. OFN President and CEO Mark Pinsky shared a few key takeaways:

  • CDFIs make it our business to do something impossible every day.
  • We must take risks, innovate, expand our reach – good intentions are not enough.
  • CDFIs unite financial equity with social, economic, and political equity – with equity we align capital with justice – because equity.
  • Leadership is about creating transformational change – both systematic and structural.

Another great speaker sharing key insights was Enterprise Community Loan Fund President Lori Chatman. She emphasized “great leadership exists in the intersection of three things: environment, self and team.” This set the tone for one of the themes for the day transformational change happens in stages – individual, organizational, industry/movement.

I look forward to the opportunity to learn from fellow Citi leaders in this program and share this knowledge with others.

Contact Us

P: 614.221.1114 | 800.959.2333
E: info@financefund.org
A: Finance Fund
175 South Third Street, Suite 1200
Columbus, Ohio 43215

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