Based on the most recent census data, September was another strong month for the counties we monitor.
Some rural seasonality tips toward summer and some toward winter, there is a rhythm in these numbers worth watching. One thing is for certain, that everyone, everywhere is strapped for employees and demography is not an ally.
The Growing Initiate Community
We added the Economic and Community Development Institute(ECDI) as the 9th licensee to our customer portal Initiate, and we will add our 10th in January. What this means is that 9 organizations are offering Initiate as a resource to the businesses they support. Initiate contains 21 videos, 6 financial calculators and 80 articles organized around money, marketing and management. Important in this relationship with our partner users is the evolving learning community. We share data about what content is being used and how it is being used by customers. It creates a dynamic of learning from and with each other, to improve the financial literacy of small business owners. Through this partnership, Initiate is a resource for small business users in 32 States! We believe in the power of sharing knowledge and are thrilled to champion a new way of leveraging technology and people to advance learning.
An Investment in Learning
Recognizing the value of Initiate as a knowledge-building tool, Wells Fargo awarded Northern Initiatives a $500,000 grant as part of their Diverse Community Capital Program to expand and enhance Initiate. This will include complete translation of all resources into Spanish, implementing a strategy for supporting smaller organizations to access tools at a lower price point, and the addition of content focusing on human resources and business succession. Our Support Spotlight below highlights more about this long-standing partnership with Wells Fargo!
25 YEARS OF IMPACT INVESTING
Twenty-five years ago I was among a group of people, some of whom are still in the field who went to the White House for the signing of the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. Presidential candidate Bill Clinton had created a platform plank during his candidacy saying that there would be 100 “South Shore Banks” created around the Country. The CDFI Fund was the culmination of that pledge.
ShoreBank – An Iconic Example of Progressive Social Enterprise
The 100 ShoreBanks was an ideal that mainstream banking practices were critical to creating wealth, social justice and opportunity. Recently at the Opportunity Finance Network Annual Conference in Washington DC, former President Bill Clinton keynoted and called out Ron Grzywinski and Mary Houghton (founders of ShoreBank and founding and continuing Directors of Northern Initiatives) in his talk recognizing the 25th Anniversary of the CDFI Bill and Fund. Interestingly the Bill that was signed was drafted by Michigan Senator Don Riegle. Ironically, I read Senator Riegle’s book, O Congress in my undergraduate course work.
Read more about the impact of CDFIs here.
For over a decade, Wells Fargo and Northern Initiatives have partnered to bring resources to starting and growing small businesses. Equity Equivalent (EQ2) investments in 2004 and 2006 resulted in nearly $1 million in loans to businesses. In 2016, Wells Fargo recognized the power of growing and enhancing the greater CDFI community when they supported a learning exchange between NI and the Women’s Wisconsin Business Initiative Corporation.
The Diverse Community Capital Program
Launched in 2015, the Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital (DCC) program, aims to create increased access to capital and capacity building for diverse small business owners. The DCC program supports business owners who are African American, Hispanic, American Indian/Pacific Islander, Asian American, women, veteran, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups.
Northern Initiatives was accepted into the DCC program in 2017. Funding was awarded to help kick-start our diverse lending efforts in areas like Muskegon and Grand Rapids, which included the implementation of a plan to better serve entrepreneurs who speak English as a second language. With continued DCC funding in 2019, we are working on a full platform-wide Spanish translation of Initiate’s resources, in addition to offering Initiate as a resource to other CDFIs, microlenders, and supporters of small business growth and development.
Being a part of the Wells Fargo DCC program has allowed NI to grow inclusively and help more entrepreneurs and small business owners who might otherwise remain underserved. Since entering the program, NI has increased loans to diverse borrowers by 71%, with loans to minority-owned businesses seeing the greatest growth.