Going Farther by Going Together

Finance Fund CEO James R. Klein

Finance Fund CEO James R. Klein

In one way or another, I’ve been a relationship builder throughout my career.  It’s what I do best — probably because I work at it every day, in every situation, with everyone I meet.

I am in the business of connecting people, businesses and communities in need with public and private sources of capital. That takes a lot of relationship building. It takes a lot of time and trust. And because we live in a global economy, and we can learn a lot from diversity, it also takes a fair amount of travel. Everyone has something to teach us. Someone from DC or Australia or Africa may have something to share that will benefit our economic development work in Ohio.

But relationship building isn’t just about getting. It’s about giving as well. It’s about being generous with your time. Exchange makes relationships work.  Makes them lasting. Personal. Real and enduring. Deals come and go, but relationships go on, sometimes for a lifetime if they are mutually nurtured.

Last summer, I was honored to be among the 35 people selected to attend the Oxford University Advanced Management and Leadership Program in the UK. I began many friendships there, and learned many things about leadership and how to connect strategy to measurable performance standards from experts and critical thinkers from around the globe. 17136440609_cdb990fccc_z

Over the past year, we alumni have stayed in touch because we value what each other thinks and says and does and observes. Earlier this month, I attended a convening at the 2015 Oxford in North America Chicago event. There were many discussions and we had ample opportunity to meet with other Oxford alumni, reconnect with old friends and introduce ourselves to new people.

In just a few weeks, I will be back at Oxford University in the UK to present my thinking to the class of 2015, and spark discussion about the necessity of pursuing inclusive capitalism. It is through discussions such as this that we can begin to know, understand and appreciate the breadth of thinking and cultural influences that shape us personally, in business and in our communities.

I hope you make the most of your travels to seek out new relationships. Meeting people from different life experiences and cultural influences will expand your thinking immeasurably and bring long-term benefit to your organization and the people you serve.

I am reminded of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” In a world where human interaction is increasingly happening online through social media and video, it’s important to be reminded of the power of simply getting together with other people. There’s real value in a spoken “Hello,” a handshake, a smile, a shared meal, a laugh, an impassioned discussion punctuated with waving hands and raised eyebrows – this is how meaningful relationships are born and nurtured, regardless of where we call home. And its value is beyond calculation.

“Street Stories” Video Shares Successes

Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development

Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development

Each year, Finance Fund and FCAP feature client projects in a corporate video that tells the very personal stories and grassroots nature of what it means to fulfill a vision, triumph over adversity and meet community needs. Our clients’ pride in accomplishment shines through. Their stories confirm that Finance Fund’s flexible grant and loan funding is vital to supporting projects that would not otherwise qualify for traditional bank financing.

This year, our corporate video is called “Street Stories” and features three diverse projects.

“The 9” is a massive mixed-use redevelopment that brought retail, residential, hotel and RotundaStreetViewoffice space to Cleveland’s urban core. Finance Fund provided $7 million in New Markets Tax Credit Financing to two of the three buildings including the historic Rotunda. This architectural masterpiece was completely restored and repurposed as the site of Heinen’s Fine Foods, a full-service grocery that offers fresh and prepared foods to an underserved area.  Not only is Heinen’s a great grocery and lunch spot, it has become a tourist destination where visitors enjoy looking at the murals that depict scenes from Ohio’s agrarian past.

BC1Broken Connections is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency housing, social services, job training and counseling services to at-risk homeless and runaway youth in East Cleveland. Finance Fund provided an economic development grant to make needed improvements to the historic house that serves as home and headquarters to this exceptional place of renewal and reconnection for so many youth and their families.


CaJohn’s Fiery Foods manufactures fresh and fiery sauces, salsas and seasonings to the delight of fans around the globe. FCAP’s small business loan helped John “CaJohn” Hard (also known as the “Godfather of _DSC9877Hot Sauce”) and his wife Sue expand their Westerville operation and purchase equipment. CaJohn’s uses some of the hottest fresh chili peppers in the world to create a line of more than 2,000 specialty food products sold at retail outlets and online.

We are grateful to our corporate video sponsor US Bank for their generous support. Feel free to get in touch with me at kscher@financefund.org with questions or comments.

Food Access Takes the National Stage

Finance Fund EVP Strategic Initiatives

Finance Fund EVP Strategic Initiatives

Partnerships among businesses, lending and community partners are needed to help fill the gap in access to healthy foods in many communities around the country.

That is one of the conclusions from two national meetings held in Washington D.C. recently that included the Fourth Annual “National Conversation on Improving Access to Healthy Foods” and a roundtable of groups like Finance Fund that are part of the ReFresh Cohort, which is supported by JPMorgan Chase. Meeting sponsors included The Food Trust, The Reinvestment Fund and PolicyLink.  

A number of opportunities were discussed during the sessions.

  • The importance of grocery stores in urban neighborhoods to bring healthy food closer to where people live
  • How grocery stores in small communities serve not just as a place to buy food, but as a community center
  • Creating comprehensive services together in one location, including healthy food retail, health care, community centers, and recreation centers
  • Differences in size and products of grocery stores in urban areas vs those in rural areas

Held in the beautiful Pew Charitable Fund headquarters (which conducts some of the nation’s most significant public ProduceBasketFullpolicy analysis), the Convening brought together more than 200 policy makers, practitioners and funders of healthy food initiatives from around the country.

White House Healthy Foods Advisor Deb Eschmeyer joined fellow panelists PolicyLink President Angela Glover Blackwell, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program Officer Jasmine Hall Ratliff. In addition, panels included practitioners from around the country.

Sometimes, community development advocates get wrapped up in their work and feel like they are out there “all alone.” We know it’s not true, of course, so it was exciting to be among so many committed and experienced professionals for two days to talk about the most effective ways of solving the problem of the lack of healthy foods in neighborhoods and communities. Please send me a note if you’d like further information markbarbash@financefund.org.

A Night to Remember: Finance Fund Projects Shine at Annual Gala

Lower Lights CEO Dr. Dana Vallangeon accepts the Community Champion Award.

Lower Lights CEO Dr. Dana Vallangeon accepts the Community Champion Award from Finance Fund President Diana Turoff  (left) and CEO James Klein.

Economic Development Champions from throughout Ohio gathered at the beautiful Ohio Statehouse for Finance Fund’s Annual Gala on May 7. We were thrilled to welcome investors, funders and banking partners, our colleagues in community development, and our clients who are bringing about economic revitalization in their communities.

A major highlight of this memorable evening was our recognition of  Broken Connections  and Lower Lights Christian Health Center  as our Community Champion Award winners. These organizations demonstrate selfless commitment to advocacy, fellowship and stewardship to advance the health, education and well-being of community residents in meaningful and significant ways.

Broken Connections provides emergency housing, job training, counseling and social services to runaway, homeless and at-risk youth in East Cleveland. Lower Lights serves patients who are often uninsured or under-insured and unable to receive reliable primary health care.

Broken Connections Executive Director Nicole Howell accepts the Community Champion Award from Finance Fund President Diana Turoff (left) and CEO James Klein.

Broken Connections Executive Director Nicole Howell accepts the Community Champion Award.

Finance Fund presents the Visionary Partner Award to The Food Trust Associate Director Caroline Harries.

Finance Fund presents the Visionary Partner Award to The Food Trust Associate Director Caroline Harries.

It was also our great honor to recognize The Food Trust as our Visionary Partner Award winner. This national food access advocacy organization has worked with Finance Fund and the Healthy Food Financing Task Force to develop statewide policy recommendations aimed at increasing access to healthy, affordable food in areas of greatest need.

Guests were treated to a walk down Main Street, Ohio, with the premiere of our new corporate video “Street Stories”. The journey included three remarkable projects and organizations we’ve funded throughout Ohio.

  • “The 9” mixed-use redevelopment that brought a Heinen’s grocery store to urban Cleveland
  • Broken Connections
  • CaJohn’s Fiery Foods in Westerville, a specialty food manufacturer that is setting the world
    on fire with award-winning hot sauces, salsas and seasonings

We are grateful to our sponsors, whose generous support made the evening possible:

  • PNC Bank, event
  • US Bank, corporate video
  • Barnes & Thornburg, reception
  • Rea & Associates, annual report
  • Huntington National Bank, dessert
  • Merrill Lynch (Len Barbe and Kevin Cox), Celebrate Ohio Raffle

Thank you for your ongoing support of our work to improve the quality of life for people.

Statehouse Brings Focus to Healthy Food Access

Finance Fund CEO James R. Klein

Finance Fund CEO James R. Klein

It is fitting that the beautiful Ohio Statehouse is the setting for Finance Fund’s Annual Gala in May. As part of the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force, Finance Fund has been working with state legislators to create a new statewide Healthy Food Financing Initiative to help ensure that every Ohioan has access to affordable, nutritious food.

Yesterday, the Ohio House passed a substitute budget bill (HB64) which included creation of this financing initiative. The budget language is now before the Senate for consideration.

Getting to this point in our journey has required steadfast commitment from nearly 50 leaders of the grocery industry and the community as well as the economic development, public health and civic sectors. These leaders comprise the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force which convened three times last year.

Initially, the Task Force met to review findings of a statewide research study “Food for Every Child” that Finance Fund commissioned from The Food Trust, a national food access advocate. The study mapped crisis areas in Ohio located at the confluence of low supermarket access, high rates of diet-related death, and low-income. We thank the Ohio Regional Convergence Partnership, the United Way of Central Ohio and the United Way of Greater Cleveland for their financial support of this study.

That study led the Task Force to ponder the question of “why” healthy food retailers are not locating in areas of greatest need. Insights from grocers and other Task Force members determined that a key barrier is lack of access to sufficient capital. Other barriers include costly site assembly, higher development costs, more expensive workforce training and security needs. 

From there, the Task Force created a ten-point policy statement “Supporting Grocery Development in Ohio” that outlines steps that we can take together with policymakers to remove impediments to healthy food retail development in underserved areas. These recommendations were presented at a Statehouse news event in February. We now await the outcome of the state budget debate.

Those who have ready access to a grocery store may not realize how essential this community asset is to the health and well-being of families as well as the economic prosperity of neighborhoods. We are grateful to Ohio’s General Assembly, the Task Force and The Food Trust for their diligence in addressing the basic human need for access to affordable, fresh food.

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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.


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/.


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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