Connecting with Local CDFIs: Coalition Chair Visits Native CDFIs

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Finance Fund CEO Emeritus James R. Klein

Finance Fund
CEO Emeritus James R. Klein

“Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.”   ― Emily Dickinson

 Dickinson’s quote points out a fairly well known principle that is often forgotten, or at least overlooked. We miss a lot of good things by not attempting to do them. As Chair of the CDFI Coalition Board, I’ve taken this little life lesson to heart and applied it to my limited time in office. My opportunity to connect with local CDFIs, which are the basic element of the CDFI concept, is not something I’m willing to overlook. 

My first visits were as a result of the 2016 CDFI Institute, held in March in DC, where there was a presentation of Native CDFIs and their work around the country.  The follow-up conversations resulted in invitations from Ted Piccolo, Director of Northwest Native Development Fund in Nespelem, WA, and Tanya Fiddler, Director of the Native CDFI Network based in Rapid City, SD. My visits to Coulee Dam and South Dakota made me feel welcome on arrival and better informed when I left.

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Northwest Native Development Fund (NNDF) is a CDFI focused on helping individuals create and build assets, such as housing and small businesses. Their work also involves training, small business assistance, and helping make connections with state and local agencies.  NNDF serves the Colville Indian Reservation, Spokane Indian Reservation, and Kalispell Indian Reservation tribal members and descendants, as well as those employed by area tribes. My conversation with staff reinforced my admiration for local people whose diligence, persistence, and passion is the backbone of our industry.

South Dakota is the home of nine reservations, and Tanya Fiddler comes to her role as Executive Director of the Native CDFI Network through the challenges of development in these local communities. Formerly, the Director of Four Bands CDFI in Eagle Butte, SD, Tanya has the understanding and unction to move the needle of public policy, local ambivalence, and cultural reticence.

Both of these CDFIs are doing something that is both basic and profoundly critical, not only in Native communities, but also in any unstable economy, low-income neighborhood, or disadvantaged enclave in the nation—and, indeed, in the world.  They are creating systems that allow for the building of wealth and, more specifically, individual wealth. Individual wealth stabilizes local economic systems, because it is transferable to the next generation. This work is local and it is systemic.

For far too long, we have focused almost exclusively on the symptoms of these dysfunctional systems and spent billions upon billions of dollars to alleviate their impact. But as those dollars move away, because of political will or economic volatility, the symptoms return with a vengeance. Expecting that doing away with the symptoms will change the systems that cause them is not wisdom, it is “wishdom”. This phrase was coined by Gardiner Morse in a Harvard Business Review article “Bottom-Up-Economics” (August 2003). Morse talks about the Bottom of the Pyramid and its relevance in the stabilization and strengthening of local economies/communities.  It is not good enough to rely on public-sector intervention or investment, because it is almost exclusively pointed at the symptoms. These Native CDFIs, as well as their non-Native counterparts, are the type of model to which Mr. Morse is eluding. There is overwhelming evidence that investment in local communities, and specifically local entrepreneurs and small business, is the most effective approach to the viability of local areas.

The challenge in Native communities is exacerbated by the diversity of the communities. Issues of tribal ownership of land and assets, varying forms of tribal governance, levels of support for basic development efforts, levels of collaboration between native and non-native institutions, and simply doing things differently, makes the work even more challenging. It is my intent to do some follow-up on what is actually happening on the ground in these communities at another time.

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” ― Francis Bacon,

 NOTE: This blog was originally published August 10, 2016 by the CDFI Coalition.

HR Pros Share Best Practices in Diversity and Mindset

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Suzette Berry, Vice President Human Resources

Suzette Berry, Vice President Human Resources

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) annual conference offers an array of valuable information, training, education and networking opportunities to help human resource and business leaders enhance, encourage and remain abreast of best practices and compliance.

Diversity
Diversity was a major topic of discussion. “The way forward is less about individual policies and program and more about culture and commitment. It’s about choosing and building inclusion,” according to Kathy Martinez, former Assistant Secretary of Labor Disability Employment Policy, DOL.

The conference provided some excellent recommendations for employers to consider:

      • An inclusive organization is a welcoming place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. So work hard at maintaining this type of environment.
      • Be proactive about acknowledging that people are different and have different talents to bring to the table. Appreciate those differences.
      • Make sure that policies are a direct reflection and consistent with current federal, state and local discrimination guidelines.
      • Embrace diversity as diverse groups tend to have better problem-solving skills and have more of a creative ability together.
      • Diversity educates and exposes numerous ethnic differences that can be beneficial to the organization, so encourage it.
      • Consider employees who may feel like an outsider and take steps to address this.

Mindset
Every organization represents many minds, but what mindset is your culture building? Some suggestions for a successful organization include:

      • Strive to keep a positive mindset despite challenges. Remember that if you live for people’s acceptance, you will not continue to thrive when you are rejected. And rejection will happen.
      • Demonstrate a positive mindset and then remember that no one is perfect. If you feel that you are somebody when you are successful, then what are you when you are not?  Always believe in yourself and your capabilities.
      • Appreciate accomplishments, but don’t forget to admire the effort.
      • Always have a humble mindset. Being humble creates an environment of trust and respect.
      • Have a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset. Never let a setback or negative talk from someone groom your confidence and intelligence.

Humility may be a virtue, but it’s also a competitive advantage. Research from the University of Washington Foster School of Business shows that humble people are more likely to be high performers in individual and team settings and tend to make more effective leaders. Humility has a direct connection to higher levels of engagement and less turnover.

Finance Fund embraces diversity and a mindset of positivity in all of our endeavors. After all, among our values is the statement that “we believe that people are important”. Our work in underserved communities, and our interactions with each other support that value every day.  You can discover more about Finance Fund and Finance Fund Capital Corporation at our website.

Community Action Agencies Explore Complex Issues

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Lending Officer Omar Elhagmusa

Lending Officer Omar Elhagmusa

Each July, community action professionals gather for the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA) Conference to share best practices and get updates on impactful trends, and the changing roles of government in assisting the poor. Panel discussions, plenary sessions, workshops, and networking events brought focus to a wide range of complex and challenging issues that many Ohio communities are facing.

As someone new to the conference, I was impressed by the depth of commitment demonstrated by many Community Action Agency representatives. Some have been continuously involved in community work for 50 years and about half the attendees had 20 years or more of experience. Through my own grassroots service as a member of the Weinland Park Civic Association, I am keenly aware of how important active local civic organizations are to helping neighborhoods thrive. On a larger scale, the organizations represented at the conference serve a vast variety of missions to meet the wide-ranging needs of their communities – from employment assistance, and health and wellness, to housing, financial literacy, education and early development.

CAAin action

David Bradley, Executive Director of the National Community Action Foundation, addressed the status of the “War on Poverty”. This multi-day session examined how U.S. Presidents and Congress have contributed to anti-poverty legislation and policies over the decades to reinforce the work of the Community Action Program. During multiple conversations, it was clear that Community Action Agencies are confronting new and old societal issues. For example, supporting more low-income housing has always been an initiative, but today, there is even less transitional housing available for the working poor.

I am encouraged to learn that some agencies are starting to take advantage of the new funding model for Head Start which now covers child care for a whole work day. This will allow working families to re-enter the workforce full time sooner.

Also of note, session leaders shared insights into the changing roles and responsibilities of Board governance, and how to cultivate a culture of compliance and high ethical standards. As public scrutiny increases and resources stagnate, it is becoming increasingly difficult for nonprofit agencies to grow. Board leaders can play a significant and helpful role in increasing public awareness of agency successes. 

In addition, financial experts provided attendees with guidance on financial reporting, risk assessment and performance standards. Other speakers explored pretrial justice challenges and juvenile detention alternatives. 

Finance Fund provides predevelopment and economic development grants to help mission-driven Community Action Agencies and Community Development Corporations create long-term private-sector jobs to strengthen their area’s economic base. If you’d like more information, please get in touch with me at oelhagmusa@financefund.org

FCAP Helps Struggling Ohio Residents Access Affordable, Healthy Food

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Lending Officer Omar Elhagmusa

Lending Officer Omar Elhagmusa

Nearly two million Ohio residents are struggling to afford enough nutritious food for their households, according to The Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) reportHow Hungry is America?” Despite an improving economy and employment picture, many Ohioans are living on the margins including low-wage workers, seniors, veterans, people with illness or disabilities, and families with children. Ohio continues to rank among the 20 worst states for food hardship according to the report.

Overall, the national average of people who say they didn’t have enough money to buy food declined to 16% in 2015. By comparison, Ohio declined from 18.1% in 2014 to 17% in 2015 – but still reports a higher percentage of food hardship than the rest of the country. Ohio cities, in particular, show high food hardships rates. The Youngstown, Warren and Boardman region had a 22.3% food insecurity rate in 2015 while Dayton’s was at 21.7%. This puts both areas of the state in FRAC’s top 20 list of worst food hardship by metropolitan area. In addition, Cincinnati, Toledo, Cleveland-Elyria, Columbus and Akron all had food hardships rates higher than the national average. The report is based on findings from a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project that surveyed every state throughout 2014.

EMCLogo EMCFood
Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP) is working hard to fund projects that provide low-income households with local access to affordable healthy foods. A great example is the Epicurean Mercantile Company (EMC) in Cincinnati’s developing Over-the-Rhine area. This new urban grocery and demonstration kitchen is focused on providing low-income households with quality affordable fresh foods, as well as information on how to prepare them, and how to shop to get the most from their federal and state food nutrition benefit programs.

FCAP provided EMC with a $236,000 small business loan to get started. A diet of fresh affordable foods is known to help combat obesity, diabetes and other health issues often found in marginalized neighborhoods where fast food or processed foods are most prevalent.

Through our new Healthy Food for Ohio (HFFO) program, FCAP has focused on helping healthy food retailers overcome financial barriers to opening or expanding operations in underserved areas. With State seed capital and support from a wide range of public and private funders, HFFO is well under way since its launch in March. Projects are welcome to apply for funding at www.financefund.org. Click on the “Healthy Food Provider” button to access program guidelines and the pre-application. Or feel free to contact me at Oelhagmusa@financefund.org.

 

Mid-Year Milestones and Beach Party at Finance Fund

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Every company has its own culture. At Finance Fund, we are fueled by a shared passion for helping people and communities overcome barriers to economic prosperity. We work hard to help our clients find financing solutions to address business challenges and we are very good at helping them get to “yes” when traditional lenders have said “no.”

Market on the Green, UpTown Toledo.

Market on the Green, UpTown Toledo.

As we begin the summer and the second half of the year, we have a lot to celebrate including the March 2016 launch of the statewide Healthy Food for Ohio program. A wide range of healthy food projects have applied for funding to date, and we look forward to announcing project awards soon. This public-private partnership helps overcome funding gaps and barriers faced by grocers and other healthy food retailers operating in low-income areas. Through grants, loans and forgivable loans this flexible financing program aims to increase access to affordable, fresh food in underserved areas, improve the diets of Ohio residents, and spur economic development and revitalization.

Finance Fund’s latest New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) project is extremely meaningful to us all. Our $5.5 million NMTC allocation to United Rehabilitation Services (URS) of Greater Dayton will help double the size of the current facility and significantly increase URS’ capacity to provide specialized programs for children and adults with disabilities or other special needs. The project includes construction of a 21,000 sq. ft. Children’s Wing and other facility enhancements, and will create or retain approximately 169 jobs.

URS helps adults and children work toward independence

URS helps adults and children work toward independence

Over the past six months, Finance Fund Capital Corporation’s (FCAP) program and fiscal teams have been very active in small business lending; closing eight loans totaling more than $4.2 million to assist with business expansion and job creation throughout the state.

Our staff recently gathered to celebrate work anniversaries and birthdays with a “Beach Party” that included food, games, prizes and lots of great fun. Many members of Finance Fund’s outstanding team have been with the company for five years or more and a few are reaching 15- and 20-year anniversary milestones. This staff longevity speaks well of our culture, depth of experience, and the tremendously satisfying nature of our work.

 

Staff Anniversaries: Matt Frank (5 years), Makeba Wilson (5 years) and Valerie Heiby (20 years)

Staff Anniversaries: Matt Frank (5 years), Makeba Wilson (5 years) and Valerie Heiby (20 years)

Bruce Cook was an outstanding "Ugly Tourist"

Bruce Cook is an outstanding “Tacky Tourist”

Jennifer Hunt is ready for beachy fun as the door prize winner!

Jennifer Hunt is ready for beachy fun as the door prize winner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for your interest in Finance Fund and FCAP and for giving us the opportunity to work in underserved communities every day. Our 2015 Annual Report provides an overview of our financial position and some of our work. You may also want to view our new Corporate Video

We invite you to get in touch to discuss your project ideas, or how you can provide funding support for our flexible grant and loan programs. You can reach me at dturoff@financefund.org.

Have a great summer!

Annual Gala Honors Champions for Ohio

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Finance Fund and Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP) hosted over 200 business, elected, community and nonprofit leaders at our Annual Gala last week, which was generously sponsored by our friends at U.S. Bancorp. The Performance Hall at OSU’s Ohio Union was brimming with Champions for Ohio who enjoyed an Awards Program, reception and dinner.

Our new Corporate Video and Annual Report premiered at the Gala and featured several people and projects that are bringing jobs and economic opportunity to Ohio’s underserved communities. I hope you will take a few minutes to enjoy the heartwarming stories told by our project champions at Northeast Shores Development Corporation in Cleveland, The Childhood League Center in Columbus,  Market on the Green in UpTown Toledo, and Ziks Family Pharmacy in Dayton.

Finance Fund CEO James R. Klein

The Gala honored Finance Fund CEO Emeritus James R. Klein for his 28 years of leadership through 2015.

Another great highlight of the evening was the announcement of the 2015 Community Champion and Visionary Funder Award Winners .

Community Champion Award Winners

_MG_6105-FFGala-2016_72dpiMansion Day School is an accredited, independent and co-educational Pre-K through 5th grade preparatory school located in an identified empowerment zone in east Columbus. The School serves 100 students each academic year. Graduates go on to excel at the area’s top private and public middle schools. Head of School Dee James accepted the award presented by Finance Fund CEO Diana Turoff (left) and Board Chair D.R. Gossett. 

Dee commented, “FCAP’s small business loan enabled us to expand programming opportunities that sharpen students’ minds, and stretch their intellectual reach, while developing skills as independent thinkers and confident communicators.” 

NEShoresAwardNortheast Shores Development Corporation was honored for bringing tens of millions of dollars in investment to Cleveland’s North Shore Community to make physical improvements, help dozens of independent merchants purchase their own storefront spaces, and move hundreds of low- and moderate-income households into quality housing. As a result, the community has become an increasingly quirky, walkable and creative place. Executive Director Brian Friedman and Carly Marginian accepted the award.

“Without financial support from organizations such as Finance Fund, we would not have the capital needed to build quality of life and economic opportunity with and for our community,” according to Brian.

Visionary Funder Award Winner

Trinity - AwardTrinity Health has provided FCAP with investment for a wide range of projects in underserved communities. In September 2014, as FCAP was conducting a statewide research study to quantify the need for increased access to healthy affordable food in underserved areas, Trinity Health provided loan capital to fund our earliest healthy food projects in Columbus and Cincinnati. This early investment, in collaboration with Mount Carmel Health System, was key to opening doors to additional investment from foundations, banks and eventually the State of Ohio to launch the statewide Healthy Food for Ohio (HFFO) program in March 2016. Trinity Health’s Socially Responsible Investment Consultant Jody Wise accepted the award from Finance Fund Director of Development Valerie Heiby.

“We’ve had great success partnering with FCAP over the years to bring needed goods and services to residents of underserved communities. As a mission-driven innovative health organization, we are committed to becoming the national leader in improving the health of our communities and each person we serve,” Jody said.

Congratulations to all of our Award winners!

Historic Landmark Building Repurposed in Madisonville

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Finance Fund President and CEO Diana Turoff

Finance Fund President and CEO Diana Turoff

Finance Fund is pleased to provide an economic development grant to assist the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corp. (MCURC) in redeveloping a nearly 90-year-old historic landmark bank building into modern residential and retail space totaling 5,600 sq. ft. This building is a wonderful example of adaptive re-use that will certainly add to the community’s vibrancy and enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors to Madisonville, OH.

Historic landmark Madisonville Bank Building

Historic landmark Madisonville Bank Building

Because historically significant buildings such as this sit at the heart of redevelopment districts, they are often in the demolition bullseye to make way for urban renewal projects. It simply costs more to adapt older buildings and to reconfigure them for more modest and less profitable re-use. As a result, many architecturally significant historic treasures are lost — and former “historic districts” cease to exist. And we all know that the historic character and charm of downtown areas and neighborhoods simply can’t be replaced by modern high-rise buildings and surface parking lots.

The Madisonville bank project provides two, two-bedroom apartments on the second floor totaling 2,600 sq. ft. and 3,000 sq. ft. of retail or restaurant space on the first floor. It brings six full-time jobs and 30 construction jobs to this recovering area that has a 15% unemployment rate and a 22% poverty rate. It will also serve as a catalyst to other development and business recruitment in the area. Plans call for eight new businesses to enter Madisonville soon including a bakery, two coffee shops, a commissary for Madisonville restaurant Mazunte Taqueria, and a fitness and boxing gym. Nearby, nearly seven acres have been slated for a mixed use redevelopment expected to be announced later this year.

After buying the building in 2012, MCURC raised nearly $650,000 for renovations but found it nearly impossible to get a bank loan to complete the project because tenants had not been identified. In addition to Finance Fund, project funders included the City of Madisonville, Duke Energy Urban Revitalization Initiative, Fifth Third Bank, LISC of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, PNC Bank, and the James A. Schroth Family Charitable Trust.

In a recent ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the reopening, I joined with many project supporters and community leaders to celebrate this building renewal including Vice Mayor David Mann and MCURC Board President Ken Coggeshall. The ceremony included remarks from Prencis Wilson, Vice President of Madisonville’s Community Council, who said, “This is what happens when people working together actually works.”
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We applaud Madisonville for protecting, preserving and redeveloping this wonderful building for everyone to enjoy for many years to come.

From Abandoned to Abundant: Project Success Stories Inspire Us

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Kimberly Scher, SVP Communications

Kimberly Scher, SVP Communications

A favorite part of my work is visiting projects to gather stories about the people and places that are making steady progress toward economic recovery.

Through public-private partnerships, Finance Fund and Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP) flow capital into projects located in neglected and overlooked neighborhoods across the state. These investments build community assets and fuel grassroots revitalization efforts that are improving lives and bringing jobs, services, workers, shoppers and further investment into these areas.

Project owners, funding partners and those they serve inspire our team every day. Here are two recent project stories that we hope will inspire you too.

The Childhood League Center

In the midst of the historic buildings on the Fort Hayes Campus in downtown Columbus, a construction crew is swinging steel to create The Childhood League Center’s new 41,000 sq. ft. early childhood intervention and preschool center.

Finance Fund provided $8MM in federal and $2.56MM in state New Markets Tax Credit allocation to attract private investment from Capital One to the project. It’s being built to double The Center’s space and expand programming for vulnerable children under age six who are at-risk or developmentally delayed. The Center’s new one-of-a-kind play scape will be an exciting addition to the classroom learning space. Expect the facility to open later this year.

At its current location, The Center is brimming with bubbly, squirmy, friendly children who are excited about learning and sharing together regardless of their differences. On a recent visit, it was amazing to see a tiny boy named Rocky step away from his walker to proudly climb the stairs on his own. Small miracles like this happen every day at The Center, where warm and loving teachers help children achieve developmental milestones.

The Center anticipates serving 57% more children in its new space to meet the demand for services.

Construction at the new Fort Hayes site

Construction at the new Fort Hayes site

Rocky prepares to climb steps

Rocky prepares to climb steps

Students ready to learn and play.

Students ready to learn and play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Market on the Green

In UpTown Toledo, a fresh food grocery and community training center are bringing nutrition and opportunity to a recovering urban neighborhood. For years, a 2.5-acre lot and adjacent 4-story building located at the heart of the neighborhood were home to crime, prostitution and drug activity.

Finance Fund provided The UpTown Association with a healthy food grant to assist with early renovations of the project site. Today, the recently opened “Market on the Green” provides fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy in what was once a USDA-certified food desert. The Market is an ideal fit with the mission of ProMedica, and The Ebeid Institute which poured $3.5 million into full renovation of the 34,000 sq. ft. building.

The Market employs 12 workers including Beverly, a neighborhood resident. When she isn’t busy stocking shelves, Beverly is taking classes and studying to become a phlebotomist. She is not, however, a typical grocery worker or student. Her life in UpTown has not been easy. By working as a health care professional, she hopes to fully recover from bankruptcy and eventually retire. Thanks to The Market and its training program, Beverly now has a home, a job, career training and expectations of a brighter future. She describes her work and schooling as “a great blessing.”

Beverly is a Market employee and student.

Beverly is a Market employee and student.

UpTown Toledo's new Market on the Green grocery and community hub.

UpTown Toledo’s new Market on the Green grocery and community hub.

The Market provides fresh, healthy food to area residents.

The Market provides fresh, healthy food to area residents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Us

We invite you to learn more about Finance Fund and FCAP’s work by reading project success stories found on our website. If you’d like to discuss funding opportunities, please contact Director of Development Valerie Heiby, vheiby@financefund.org. If  you have a project in mind, please contact Lending Officer Omar Elhagmusa, oelhagmusa@financefund.org .

 

Healthy Food for Ohio Launches with Strong Statewide Support

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Finance Fund President and CEO Diana Turoff

FCAP President and CEO      Diana Turoff

There’s been a strong positive response to the new Healthy Food for Ohio (HFFO) program, which provides grants and loans to grocery stores and other healthy food retailers operating in or expanding in underserved communities.

All of us at Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP) are deeply grateful to the many people and organizations that have coalesced around the healthy food access issue and made it possible for Ohio to get the HFFO program under way.

The program officially launched in early March with the support of Congressman Steve Stivers and Ohio House Finance Chair Ryan Smith, who was instrumental in appropriating state funding for HFFO, along with many of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle.  This program could not have been realized without  Governor John Kasich’s support of the state budget, as well as the input of many policymakers in his cabinet.

This week, FCAP presented HFFO program guidelines at meetings and events held around the state thanks to efforts from Rep. Romanchuk in Mansfield, and Rep. Rezabek in Dayton. Visionary policymakers made state funding available and laid financial footings for the program alongside early private-sector funders. In particular, early funding support from The Reinvestment Fund , Trinity Health, and Bank of America encouraged other foundations and banks to bring private funding to HFFO.

The support of the philanthropic community has been essential to getting the program off the ground. The Ohio Regional Convergence Partnership, United Way of Central Ohio, and United Way of Greater Cleveland helped fund the statewide food study report that identified areas of greatest need for increased access to healthy food.

Areas of greatest need in Ohio.

Areas of greatest need in Ohio.

These same funders supported development of the policy recommendations report that led to state funding for the HFFO program. We join with Philanthropy Ohio in applauding the engagement of so many of its members who served on the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force that spearheaded policy recommendations.

The Ohio Grocers Association (OGA) has been a steadfast industry partner on the Task Force and in sharing HFFO program details with its members. At meetings and events statewide, OGA President/CEO Kristen Mullins has laid out the need for funding to help grocers and other healthy food retailers overcome the challenges of operating in low-income communities.

And perhaps the greatest ally in this process has been The Food Trust. Their depth of experience in launching successful healthy food access programs nationwide has been invaluable. HFFO simply could never have come this far without them. The Food Trust is participating in the pre-application evaluation process to help FCAP identify eligible projects and advance them to the financing application stage.

If you’d like to join in funding the HFFO program, FCAP would love to hear from you. Please contact Director of Development Valery Heiby at vheiby@financefund.org to find out more.

To apply for funding, healthy food retailers must complete a pre-application found on www.financefund.org. Projects that are eligible for funding are then invited to complete a full financing application. Please contact Lending Officer Omar Elhagmusa at oelhagmusa@financefund.org for further information.

CDFI Institute Shifting Focus to Stabilizing Local Economic Systems

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US Senator Sherrod Brown (left) and Finance Fund CEO Emeritus James R. Klein.

US Senator Sherrod Brown (left) and Finance Fund CEO Emeritus James R. Klein.

Last week, I attended the CDFI Institute, which is an annual event sponsored by the CDFI Coalition. The Institute’s focus on policies, strategy, and systemic changes was especially poignant this year with a session focusing on transition of leadership.

A panel of senior executives[1] who have been prominent in the CDFI industry, shared  lessons learned and prognostication of what’s next. The session was almost the perfect summary of the two days of discussion of CDFI Fund priorities, other federal resources, the future, capitalization, technology, diversity, lending, housing, and developing partnerships.

I was honored to introduce Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) whose comments addressed the heart of the CDFI  ideology, and were emblematic of a subtle systemic shift that has the potential to positively change practice, prognoses, and position. 

For the most part, our nation has attempted to address basic social challenges by focusing on the effects of poverty and directing billions of dollars to alleviating poverty’s symptoms (hunger, poor education, lack of affordable housing, transportation and health care access). This is not a criticism. The strategy was to help meet the basic needs of struggling people and, to do that, immediacy was a priority. The perceived systemic shift is toward strategies that focus on how best to stabilize local economic systems.

Public resources supporting systemic change strategies like the CDFI and NMTC programs follow in the footsteps of earlier efforts; i.e. LIHTC, SBA Community Advantage, etc., which move resources to local practitioners to create sustainable local neighborhoods and build community assets that capture revenue streams, and build local wealth. The Institute discussion confirmed that not only public but private strategies are showing signs of the systemic shift. The panel on Private Sector Sources of Capital[2] for CDFIs addressed how private sector financing sources, particularly major banks, are investing in and with CDFIs differently than in the past. This insightful discussion confirmed that the CDFI Coalition’s strategy is ripe for the market. 

Finance Fund CEO Emeritus Klein was elected Chair of the CDFI Fund Coalition.

Finance Fund CEO Emeritus Klein was elected Chair of the CDFI Coalition Board of Directors.

It was also my honor to be elected Chair of the CDFI Coalition Board of Directors at the annual meeting held at the Institute. I’m privileged to work with some of the brightest and best in the industry and look forward to implementing our agenda of member engagement, clarity in public policy, promotion of the CDFI brand, and growing CDFI resources.


[1] Bob Davenport (National Development Council), Julie Gould (Mercy Loan Fund), Ron Phillips (Coastal Enterprises, Inc.), Cliff Rosenthal (The New School), Michael Rubinger (LISC); Moderator: Donna Gambrel (former CDFI Fund Director)
[2] Sean Birney (JPMorgan Chase), Tiena Johnson-Hall (BBVA Compass), Dan LeTendre (Bank of America), Megan Teare (Wells Fargo), Moderator: Saurabh Narain (National Community Investment Fund)
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