New Muskingum Rec Center Provides Health and Economic Benefits

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Diana Turoff, CPA, Finance EVP and CFO

Spring has finally arrived and with it comes the urge to get moving again after months of darkness, cold, snow and hibernation. For Muskingum County residents and visitors, the opening of a long-awaited aquatic and recreation center will provide health as well as economic benefits to the community.

I recently toured the newly opened 70,000 sq. ft. Muskingum Recreation Center (MRC) with Executive Director Beth Chapman and was astonished by the size and capacity of the facility.

Located on Ohio University’s Zanesville campus, the 70,000+ sq. ft. MRC hosts an DSC_0209impressive pool, workout facility, indoor track, exercise rooms, locker rooms with steam and sauna, and basketball courts. It blends programs offered at the Genesis Lifestyle & Fitness Center with those of the Muskingum Family Y.

DSC_0200In addition to the many recreational benefits, MRC will have a long-term positive impact on the local economy by creating jobs and attracting new visitors, businesses and industry. The new aquatic and recreation center will also keep dollars in the community that swimmers and swim teams were previously spending in neighboring counties where they were traveling to use similar amenities.

MRC is centrally located within a 20-minute drive for about 80 percent of residents. The doors opened to donor members the week of March 24th, with over 1,500 visitors, and opened to the public on March 31st.

Finance Fund provided $11 million in federal New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) and $2.56 million in state NMTC as part of a public-private partnership to build the facility which generated 100 construction jobs, retained 40 current employees and employs 35 additional full-time staff. MRC is a nonprofit corporation, organized in June 2009, through a partnership of the Muskingum County Community Foundation (MCCF), the Muskingum Family Y (MFY), Genesis HealthCare System and Ohio University Zanesville (OUZ). Each of these organizations has a long history of service to Muskingum County and its residents.

They are off to a wonderful start.  We wish them great success.

 

SBA Community Advantage: A Launching Pad for Recovering Economies

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Finance Fund President and CEO James R. Klein

Finance Fund President and CEO James R. Klein

Last week, Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP) celebrated the grand opening of A Colorful World Too, a new daycare center in east Columbus funded with a $175,000 SBA Community Advantage loan. This marks our first loan issued through a Small Business Administration program aimed at helping to establish and grow small businesses in disadvantaged neighborhoods

Probably more than anything else we currently offer, the SBA Community Advantage 7(a) program has the potential to dramatically change our ability to move credit into recovering local economies. These smaller kinds of loans in challenging areas are important because they change the way local economies work – and that hits our mission strategy right in the bulls-eye. The Community Advantage loan program has the potential to impact communities that are on the brink of revival — providing them with an opportunity to move back into the economic mainstream.

CEO Klein with A Colorful World Owners Anita and Reggie Johnson.

CEO James R. Klein with A Colorful World Owners Anita and Reggie Johnson.

A Colorful World Too is Anita and Reggie Johnson’s second daycare in east Columbus. The loan enabled them to expand operations to serve 124 additional low-income children, create 20 jobs and meet high demand for child care that accepts private pay and Title XX assistance. Speaking at the grand opening celebration, SBA Columbus District Director Martin Golden said that “Community Advantage is an additional venue for loan dollars that gives area entrepreneurs and existing small businesses access to capital to start and grow their businesses.”

This is the first loan of its type in Central Ohio. Through Community Advantage, FCAP can access 7(a) loan guaranties as high as 85% for loans up to $250,000. FCAP is one of only three SBA-approved Community Advantage participant lenders in Ohio.

A Colorful World is a great example of a small business that has a sound business model and is providing much-needed services to low-income residents in Central Ohio. The new daycare center is located in a Federal Empowerment Zone with a 17.4 percent unemployment rate, 49.6 percent poverty rate and 20.4 percent median family income. It provides two meals a day as part of a healthy foods program supported by Health and Human Services.

colorful world2We thank the SBA for choosing Finance Fund Capital Corporation to offer this loan product. And we thank Anita and Reggie Johnson for turning to us to finance the expansion of this important new learning center.

 

A New Corporate Identity for Finance Fund

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Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development

Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development

At Finance Fund, we’ve developed a new corporate identity that represents our work in a more meaningful, contemporary way. Our mission, vision and values haven’t changed. We’ve just distilled them into three simple words and one bold icon that serves as shorthand for who we are, what we do and why.

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Let’s take a quick tour. Within the icon, the center square represents the communities and businesses that Finance Fund surrounds and supports with grants and financing. Our vibrant green color tells the story of growth, sustainability and financial capital.  And our theme emphasizes our work with partners and investors to provide financial resources needed to grow economically distressed communities into healthy, vibrant places in which to live, work, conduct business, go to school, worship and raise a family.

An advertising guru once said, “A brand is what separates your cow from the rest of the herd.” And while we hope that our new corporate identity will help make Finance Fund memorable, we know that eye-catching graphics and a great theme can’t accomplish anything on their own.

Our new corporate identity is just a small part of Finance Fund’s continuing evolution. We are constantly innovating to serve communities in need with an ever-expanding portfolio of loan funds, grants and other financial products. We are constantly working with public and private funders to expand our resources. And we never stop identifying projects and visionary partners to help bring projects to life.

We invite you to find out more about Finance Fund and how we bring meaning to our brand every day with every project, every relationship, and every community. Come partner, invest and grow with us.

Study Uncovers Fresh Food Priorities

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Director of Development Valerie Heiby

Director of Development Valerie Heiby

Going out to eat at a fast food restaurant was a treat when I was a kid.  My own children love to eat fast food too, but we try very hard to limit the number of meals we eat “from a sack.” When I read the statistics about growing obesity, diabetes, weight and heart health problems associated with a high-calorie, high-fat diet and a steady stream of soft drinks, I am very concerned for the health of my family.

It’s very disturbing to know that many families routinely eat a diet of fast food food desertand pre-packaged convenience foods – not by choice, but because this is the type of food that is readily available in their  neighborhood. Oftentimes, in urban food deserts, the nearest grocery store offering fresh food is more than a mile away from home.

Finance Fund has taken an exciting first step to help address the challenge of Ohio food deserts. We are announcing our partnership with the Ohio Regional Convergence Partnership and The Food Trust to conduct a healthy food research study in Ohio. This comprehensive study will give us greater insights into what local healthy food resources are currently available and help us further identify potential projects that need financing.  For projects that are already under way, the study will determine the level of project readiness, and map the need for a statewide healthy food financing program. In addition, we will have in-depth conversations with potential public and private funders, stakeholders and partners to raise the awareness and determine the feasibility of a statewide loan fund for healthy food access.

We expect to announce research findings and our plans for a healthy food financing fund alongside the Food Trust in June 2014. I’d really appreciate hearing from you about access to healthy food in your community.  You can reach me at vheiby@financefund.org.

Strengthening Ohio’s New Markets Tax Credit Program

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Finance Fund President and CEO Klein visiting a NMTC project.

Finance Fund President and CEO Klein visiting a NMTC project.

Creating jobs is tough to do in today’s economy – and getting investors to put money into low-income rural and urban communities is even tougher.  But the Ohio New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program does just that.

Truly, this is an effective, efficient and successful program that helps finance businesses in low-income communities and provides reasonable yields to investors, favorable rates to Ohio businesses, and employment access to local residents.

To date, the Ohio Development Services Agency has made 19 Ohio NMTC awards to nine different community development entities (CDEs) totaling $40 million in tax credit allocation, which equates to $102.4 million in investments. Ohio NMTC financed projects have created 557 new jobs and 1,665 construction jobs, and retained 1,670 jobs.

But Ohio’s program could be enhanced through revisions to the current law. 

Legislators, business owners, developers, investors and disadvantaged Ohio communities all have a vested interest in strengthening the state credit.

We’d like legislators to consider law changes that will add flexibility to the program without impacting accountability and better streamline the state’s program with the successful federal NMTC program.

To share our thinking as well as examples of successful Ohio NMTC projects, Finance Fund convened a coalition of seven CDEs from throughout Ohio to meet with state legislators this week. In addition to Finance Fund, the coalition includes: 3CDC, Cincinnati Development Fund, Citywide, Cleveland Development Advisors, Development Fund of the Western Reserve, and Northeast Ohio Development Fund. Our combined legislative visits will foster awareness, understanding – and hopefully support – for a finite set of recommendations to improve Ohio’s credit.

It’s a great program and Finance Fund is so pleased and proud to participate in putting this important economic development tool to work in Ohio.  Let’s make the Ohio NMTC program even stronger so we can all accomplish even more in the future.

 

World’s Biggest “Maker Space” to Drive Economic Development in Franklinton

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Moniqua Spencer and Alex Bandar

Columbus leaders celebrated the role of artists, makers and creators in bringing energy, imagination and cache to the revitalization of east Franklinton.

In a unique groundbreaking ceremony that featured a power tool race, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and Idea Foundry founder Alex Bandar, announced the $1.6 million first phase warehouse renovation that will make Franklinton the home of the world’s biggest maker space.

Alex Bandar and Mayor Coleman race power tools at the groundbreaking.

Alex Bandar and Mayor Coleman race power tools at the groundbreaking.

Called The Columbus Idea Foundry, the community workshop and studio space for art and products will drive custom and niche manufacturing, business development and job creation as companies mature and spin out from the Foundry. It’s part of the growing maker movement in which:

  • Access to information is no longer the bottleneck to learning how to make things
  • Barriers to entry are lowered
  • Tools are available
  • Innovations in financing, such as crowd sourcing, provide funding for ideas to become businesses

“We help people make things and teach them how to make things,” Bandar told the warehouse crowd of city leaders and entrepreneurs whose businesses grew out of the maker movement — including jewelry makers, steelsmiths, growers, artists, artisans and engineers.

“It’s these big bets by creative entrepreneurs like Alex that shape our city,” said Doug Kridler, Columbus Foundation CEO.

The Columbus Idea Foundry sits at the heart of a growing portfolio of arts and culture organizations in Franklinton that are helping revitalize Columbus’ oldest neighborhood. “What’s next here is always cutting edge, amazing and exciting,” said Jim Sweeney, executive director of Franklinton Development Association (FDA), which owns the 65,000 sq. ft. warehouse. “We are welcoming new partners to Franklinton all the time now. Adding a makers space is the perfect fit.”

Franklinton Development Association Executive Director Jim Sweeney and Finance Fund EVP, Lending and Programs Moniqua Spencer celebrate the first phase of renovation at the groundbreaking.

Franklinton Development Association Executive Director Jim Sweeney and Finance Fund EVP, Lending and Programs Moniqua Spencer celebrate the first phase of renovation at the groundbreaking.

At Finance Fund, we provide grants to Community Development Corporations like FDA to explore economic development opportunities. The Columbus Idea Foundry is an excellent example of how our predevelopment grant helped FDA determine the best use for the warehouse building and the land surrounding the project. FDA acquired the warehouse property in 2011 after using a predevelopment grant from Finance Fund to fund preliminary work such as environmental review, market study and architectural drawings.

Not only will the Columbus Idea Foundry help small businesses and start-ups create prototypes, and artists develop their ideas, it can also generate an economic development ripple effect throughout Franklinton. Other businesses will see opportunity here and locate in the area, bringing jobs, payroll taxes, new products and services, and improved property values.

The Year Ahead

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Finance Fund President and CEO James R. Klein

Finance Fund President and CEO James R. Klein

We are off to a snowy start to the New Year in Ohio. The forecast calls for extreme cold. At Finance Fund, however, we are in hot pursuit of many strategic initiatives that will open the doors to even greater economic development in 2014. Here are a few highlights of the year ahead.

Andy Hardy joins us this week as Director of Public Affairs. Formerly, Andy served as senior legislative aide to U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi.  An Ohio native, Andy and his wife Maggie returned to Columbus to start a family and join the private sector. Finance Fund is fortunate to have a Washington D.C. insider on our team. Andy will work with city, state and federal leaders to advocate for public and private sector investment in community-building assets such as: small business, health care, community facilities, housing, education and healthy food access.

We are partnering with the Food Trust to conduct a statewide market analysis this year to inform our understanding of the food landscape in Ohio and document the need for healthy food access in underserved areas. Through networking and interviews, the study will engage a diverse group of key stakeholders and help build advocacy and momentum. Our ultimate aim is to determine the types and scope of financial resources and funding sources that can support fresh food retail projects in Ohio.

The Food Trust is a leading organization dedicated to improving the health of children and adults and ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food. They work through policy, programming and evaluation efforts that affect both healthy food supply and demand.

We’ve undertaken a rebranding process that has resulted in enhanced positioning, a new logo and theme to better reflect Finance Fund’s continuing evolution in response to community need.  We will be unveiling our new brand soon and look forward to sharing it with you.

And as always, we are busy identifying community-based projects, closing financing and awarding grants.

franklinton-preparatory-academy-after_304

Franklinton Preparatory Academy

In December, we announced $9.5 million in New Markets Tax Credit financing to the Franklinton Preparatory Academy, a free charter high school newly established in the high-poverty east Franklinton area of Columbus.

Also in December, we closed on our first SBA 7a Community Advantage loan for $175,000 for A Colorful World Learning Center  in Columbus.  This loan allows them to expand their business to a second location, create four jobs, and provide quality childcare services to low and moderate income families.  Finance Fund is the first SBA Community Advantage Approved lender in Ohio.

Thanks, as always for your interest in our work and support of what we do.  We will continue to be careful stewards of the funding entrusted to our care and the valuable relationships we have built with our public and private partners over the years.  We look forward to a great year.

Building Hope One Room at a Time

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Moni with RonaldThere was an overwhelming feeling of excitement and gratitude in the air at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) of Cleveland grand opening celebration last week. The new wing was packed with people with all kinds of ties to RMH – from donors and founding families to parents of children who are patients at nearby medical centers. No matter the connection, the sentiment was the same; RMH had made a lasting impact on each person.

Moniqua, RMH ED & Board President

Chief Program Officer Moniqua Spencer (center) with RMH Executive Director Craig Wilson and Board President Judy Hubbard.

You simply can’t understand the magnitude of a project like this by looking at a report on the number of rooms that were added, the additional number of people housed or the projected financials. It doesn’t really sink in until you are sitting at the grand opening listening as RMH parents describe how staying at the house enables them to visit their premature baby girl at the intensive care unit multiple times each day. This precious life entered the world three months early with a heart problem and underdeveloped lungs and stomach. Listening to their story, there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience.

Despite all they’ve been through, these loving parents shared their personal experience with humility and grace. They didn’t dwell on their daughter’s illness or the struggles they were facing. They spoke of how grateful they were for Ronald McDonald House and how staying there enabled them to be proactive in their daughter’s treatment. Staying at RMH gave them a sense of community and a supportive “family” forged through shared experiences.

TreehouseFinance Fund provided $9.2 million in federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) financing and $2.5 million in state NMTC toward the construction project which added 18 new guest rooms, a larger kitchen facility, an extended recreation Guest Roomroom for families to gather and an expanded conference center available for community meetings. This expansion project was critical for RMH of Cleveland. Last year alone over 1,500 families were turned away due to lack of available rooms.

Finance Fund’s partnership in this project enabled RMH of Cleveland to be the first chapter in the nation to incorporate NMTC into the financing of a capital campaign, paving the way for other chapters. Every room built helps another family in a time of crisis.

EB-5 Partnership to Bring Foreign Investment to Ohio

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Diana Turoff, CPA, Finance Fund Chief Financial Officer

Diana Turoff, CPA, Finance Fund Chief Financial Officer

An exciting new partnership for Finance Fund could attract millions of dollars in foreign investment to Ohio’s disadvantaged communities and at the same time, give wealthy foreigners permission to live in the United States. Finance Fund is one of eight regional economic development organizations that have teamed with MidAmerican Global Ventures to provide EB-5 financing for job-creating projects in Ohio.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program enables foreign investors to get quicker access to a green card if they make a minimum capital investment of $1 million in a commercial enterprise that creates at least 10 new full-time jobs. In rural areas or areas with high unemployment, investors must invest at least $500,000 and create 10 U.S. jobs.

This partnership is a great way to bring EB-5’s job creation and business investment to Ohio. MidAmerican Global VenturesEB5 has created a strong and experienced team to complement Finance Fund’s own expertise. Our mutual success depends on identifying the right projects and attracting foreign investors. We anticipate using EB-5 investment with the New Markets Tax Credit structure to create an integrated transaction that focuses foreign investments into targeted areas with high unemployment rates.

We see EB-5 as an important resource in our toolbox that can stimulate the economy, create jobs, address community needs and improve the lives of Ohioans.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency provides the qualified investor with expedited processing for visas for themselves, their spouses and children. The visas, which are initially valid for two years on a conditional basis, become green cards for U.S. residency if the investment meets certain performance criteria, including creating at least 10 full-time American jobs.

EB-5 investors are not as concerned about making a profit as traditional investors. They are typically motivated by their desire to live in the U.S., and for their children to be able to attend college here. Nationwide since 2003, the EB-5 program has attracted $3.1 billion in investments and created more than 65,000 U.S. jobs.

Your questions and comments are always welcome.  Contact me at dturoff@financefund.org

Overcoming the Congressional Impasse

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At three separate events hosted for U.S. Representatives Pat Tiberi and Steve Stivers, and Senator Sherrod Brown last week, I heard a lot of discussion about Tax Reform and the Affordable Care Act. All three lawmakers expressed frustration at the ideological polarization that has kept Congress from effectively addressing these and other large issues.

Clearly, Congressional leaders recognize the need for thoughtful, rational discussion and a willingness to compromise to pass meaningful legislation.  But how?

It seems to me that real progress on national challenges will come from Congressional moderates – the folks who represent the majority of us. “We the people” know that negotiation and compromise are essential in business and in daily life and that the search for solid, common ground is necessary to moving forward. It’s time for “we the people” to require our leaders on both sides of the aisle to put down their ideological battle axes and arrive at good, workable solutions by setting aside debilitating partisanship.

There are a lot of strident voices representing far right and far left points of view.  These well-funded and highly organized conservative and liberal advocates spend a lot of time meeting with Congressional leaders and spreading their influence. The net effect is zero compromise, a nine percent approval rating for Congress, a two-week government shutdown and nearly complete stagnation on issues important to health care, business, education, the elderly, the poor and the environment, to name a few.

As I think about the many important legislative issues that are caught up in the swirl of unproductive debate, I can’t help but see how Congressional gridlock can threaten even popular programs that have received wide bipartisan support for many years.DontGridlock

A good example is the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program which has created 350,000 jobs and leveraged $55 billion in capital in economically distressed communities nationwide since 2003. Even though Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle support the credit, its reauthorization is not certain in the current environment.

We are making our voice heard. On Oct. 31, 2013, a bipartisan group of 70 U.S. representatives sent a letter, sponsored by Representatives Stivers and Michaud, to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp urging support for permanent extension of the NMTC. The last reauthorization vote made $3.5 billion in NMTC authority available for two years and is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2013.

NMTC reauthorization in Congress hinges on pulling it free from the partisan tax reform debate and allowing it to be evaluated independently on its own merits and record of achievement. It’s good to note that in my meetings last week there were no negative comments on the value of the NMTC. We have reason to be cautiously optimistic that Congress will vote to renew the credit. I urge your continued outreach to your Congressional leaders in support of NMTC reauthorization.

Your comments are always welcome in this forum or feel free to contact me at jrklein@financefund.org

Contact Us

P: 614.221.1114 | 800.959.2333
E: info@financefund.org
A: Finance Fund
17 South High Street, Suite 900
Columbus, Ohio 43215

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