Interview #19 Alana Peterson | Spruce Root

Interview #19 Alana Peterson | Spruce Root

Interview #19

ALANA PETERSON | Spruce Root

In this latest edition of “Difference Makers,” NCN sits down with Alana Peterson, who serves as Executive Director of Spruce Root, Inc., which serves 23 predominantly Native communities across southeast Alaska. A federally certified Native CDFI, Spruce Root provides local entrepreneurs with access to business development and financial resources in the form of loan capital, business coaching, workshops, and competitions.

Alana’s Tlingit name is Gah Kith Tin, from Diginaa Hit, Luknahadi. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration at Charleston Southern University. After graduating from college, she joined the Peace Corps, where she served as a Small Business Development volunteer on the southern coast of Peru. She then obtained her Master’s degree in Business Administration from Northern Arizona University.

In this engaging conversation with NCN, Alana shares her Tlingit upbringing and how it informed her journey towards her current role as a Native CDFI leader, and how Spruce Root’s “regenerative” initiatives flow directly from an intimate understanding of the communities it serves.

NCN: Greetings Alana, it’s good to have you with us today.

Peterson: Thanks so much. I’m excited to be part of the “Difference Makers” interview series you’ve been doing.

NCN: Why do you what you do? How did leading Spruce Root become your life’s calling?

Peterson: I grew up here in Sitka, which is an island in southeast Alaska, and I am Tlingit, which is one of the major Indigenous tribes here. Growing up in a Native household, I felt really connected to those Indigenous values and I have that upbringing. But my Native identity was also very much connected to being a Sealaska corporation shareholder. I was heavily influenced by that. Growing up I saw the pride my parents had about it and I’d watch the annual meetings where the board would get elected and talk about business. It was very much a part of how I identified as being Native. I also was entrepreneurial as a child. I was always figuring out how to sell something to make a buck. Plus, both of my parents were entrepreneurs.

When I went to college, I majored in business and learned how many aspects of capitalism weren’t aligned with my Indigenous values. After college, I joined the Peace Corps, where I worked with small, rural entrepreneurs on the southern coast of Peru who were just trying to make ends meet, and also with local municipalities and other organizations to bring resources to bear for programming that made sense for those entrepreneurs. I learned a lot in the process about community and rural business development.

When I returned to Alaska, I saw there were just as many challenges, but I also felt there was something I could do about it, so I went back and got my master’s degree in business administration. I’ve been doing this work ever since.

NCN: As you know, there are more than 70 federally certified Native CDFIs across the country and many more “emerging” CDFIs following in their footsteps. Why did Native communities feel it necessary to create CDFIs, and what fundamental role do they play?

Peterson: Native CDFIs develop programs and services that are by the people they’re serving. Financial markets haven’t been accessible to Native people. That’s due to the structures and systems that were created to limit our access. For us here in Alaska, that looks like boarding schools. People being taken away from their homes and removed from their traditional homelands. Entire communities being forced to become part of this new system of reliance on federal government handouts. When you take our existing economy and flip it upside down and force us into a new system, suddenly we’ve lost our ability to be part of a financial system. CDFIs are one of the doorways back into economic prosperity for Indigenous people. That’s definitely a part of why I work at a Native CDFI – it can make a difference. We have always had strong systems of commerce and trade, and Native CDFIs are really reinvigorating that knowledge in our people. CDFIs are a good tool to combat the systemic issues we’re facing.

“CDFIs are one of the doorways into economic prosperity for Indigenous people…It’s not lost on me that we have always had strong systems of commerce and trade, and Native CDFIs are really reinvigorating that knowledge in our people. They are a good tool to combat the systemic issues we’re facing.”

NCN: What do policymakers, philanthropy, and the general public who aren’t familiar with Native CDFIs need to understand about them and the difference they make?

Peterson: What I commonly come back to is you need to come see us. You must spend time in our communities. It’s one thing for us to fill out an application and explain our programs, the challenges, and how our organization is working to address them. But it’s a whole different thing for you to see and experience it firsthand. These are complex challenges we’re facing because of these systems that have been created. “Systems change” is what is required. That’s full of complex challenges, and complex challenges require complex solutions. We can’t easily translate that on paper, but we’re being asked to often in 1,500 words or less. It’s great to start a relationship with a funder or with a policymaker just by filling out something. But the next step should be a site visit to come see it for yourself. That’s easier said than done, but it always has a big impact on the funders and partners we work with.

The other thing to understand about Native CDFIs is we’re often understaffed. Looking at my peers here in the region, there’s a few of us that have the knowledge and skillsets to do this work. There’s more of us coming up and that’s great. But if you look at what we’re doing and the different things we have to navigate – understanding the philanthropy world, how to run a Native CDFI, how to apply for grant funding – these are very different skillsets and worlds. But we have to know all of them. Often, especially as an emerging CDFI, if you don’t have all of that in house, you have to pick a strategy, go with it, and hope you picked the right one. For us, a lot of it has been capacity building and giving us the time and space to learn into this and the grace to do it as well.   

NCN: Tell us more about Spruce Root. According to your website, Spruce Root is “a driver of a regenerative economy across Southeast Alaska so communities can forge futures grounded in this uniquely Indigenous place.” So what does this entail in practice?

Peterson: We’re trying to drive a regenerative economy that’s not just economic development and growth, but development and growth that makes sense for this place and the people here and doesn’t do it at the expense of the environment, our culture, or the community’s wellbeing. We want to leave the environment healthier, our communities stronger, and our cultures thriving. That requires a strong connection to the communities we’re serving. It also means figuring out what’s not working, adapting, and then trying again. That’s resulted in a few core programs that advance this approach, including the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, which is a collective impact network made up of diverse organizations and individuals across southeast Alaska. We also have our robust technical assistance services, which includes our one-on-one business coaching and advising that is available to all residents, Native or non-Native. That’s important because here our communities are a mix of Natives and non-Natives living together on the same land. So we support entrepreneurs across the board, but we prioritize Native-owned businesses and the work is guided by Indigenous values. We also have our group workshops for early-stage entrepreneurs – those just starting their businesses, haven’t yet started, or are interested in it. Then we have workshops for later-stage entrepreneurs, so usually two years or more in business and are seeking support. They have learned a thing or two and know they could be doing better, but they need more structure to figure out how to do that.

NCN: One of the coolest programs Spruce Root runs is its Path to Prosperity business competition. Why did Spruce Root create this initiative, and what does it entail?

Peterson: This is Spruce Root’s flagship program. It was a partnership developed with the Nature Conservancy, which at the time was monumental. The Nature Conservancy brought funding and some capacity, and we brought staffing and program administration. At the time, no one was using the term “triple bottom line.” The Nature Conservancy wanted to shift its strategy in conservation to be more inclusive of the people that live in the place, so it created this as a pilot program to fund the development of businesses that are triple bottom line modeled. Sealaska had started Spruce Root to get more capital into our communities, but it didn’t know how many entrepreneurs were in the region or who they were. We didn’t know if anyone would even apply, but we thought, “Let’s do this program to attract entrepreneurs to it. Then we will create a portfolio of clients that then could apply for loans that we could serve.” What we found is there’s so many entrepreneurs out there. The competition is now in its eighth cycle. It brings 12 people through a year-long process to develop a business plan, which includes what we call “boot camp weekend.” It’s a three-day process where they get access to a bunch of different industry professionals and service providers that otherwise would take them months and lots of money to access on their own. In those three days, they get the answers they need to build strong business plans. They also form a network with other entrepreneurs, build more confidence in what they’re doing, and feel supported. You need that camaraderie and support to feel like, “I’m not in this alone. I have other people I can reach out to.” In the end, two winners are selected each year and they receive an award of between $25,000 and $50,000.

Spruce Root client Rico Worl, who is co-founder and co-owner of Trickster Company (Courtesy: Spruce Root)

NCN: Spruce Root has helped a great number of people. Is there an individual client success story that really sticks out to you, that really inspires you?

Peterson: It’s hard to pick just one, because I’ve just witnessed so many entrepreneurs who’ve battled through the challenges of running a business as well as the mental struggles we face and learning how to fail and then get up and do better the next time. One example of this is Rico Worl and Trickster Company. He wanted a loan to set up a retail shop that at the time would have a limited product mix: playing cards and skateboards with Northwest Coast Native formline designs. Our loan underwriter at the time said, “No way. He’s got five products. You can’t run a retail shop with five products. It just doesn’t make sense.” So we put him through the ringer to prove his business model made sense. At the time, Northwest Coast Native art was not as accessible. You could find it in galleries, but it was not something you could buy online with the click of a button. He recognized so much untapped opportunity for product placement with Northwest Coast Native art. Now it’s so popular, so he was really a leader in the contemporary art scene we see today     . I remember pushing for his loan and telling our underwriter, “We’ve got to make it work.” Well, he got the loan, set up the shop, and brought his sister on as a partner. Over time, he developed many products and paid off his loan early. He partnered with a lot of folks, and now he’s got a successful brand. He had a clear vision and didn’t let anyone break his spirit. That’s what I find so special about his story.    

NCN: From your perspective, what do Native CDFIs like yours need to realize their full potential? What support do they need to achieve their missions and maximize their impact?

Peterson: Strong partnerships and networks. Your network is worth its weight in gold. Any time we’ve really been struggling, we reach out to other CDFIs, and we’ve learned and gained so much by having those connections. The other Native and non-Native CDFIs in Alaska have been such a huge resource for us. Making the time to have those relationships with one another can really pay dividends when you need it. Also, Native CDFIs have lofty missions and there’s no way we can achieve them alone, so you’re      setting yourself up for failure if you’re not prioritizing relationships and partnerships.

To learn more about Spruce Root, please click here.

PHOTO CAPTION: Spruce Root client Rico Worl, who is co-founder and co-owner of Trickster Company (Courtesy: Spruce Root)

NCN News for the Week of August 8

NCN Submits Comments to the OCC regarding the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to modernize the CRA

In early May, the three agencies tasked with regulating banking institutions’ compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) jointly released their much-anticipated Interagency CRA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) designed to strengthen and modernized the regulations governing the Act. To review the NPR, please click here.

Due to the historic nature of this NPR, NCN participated in several listening sessions and held two of its own to gather input from Native CDFI leaders to ensure their voice was included in the rule making process. NCN’s submitted comment can be viewed here.

NCN “Difference Makers” Interview Series:
Sean Winters and Alana Peterson

Last week, the Native CDFI Network released its latest edition of “Native CDFIs: Difference Makers for Indian Country,” an interview with Sean Winters, who serves as Executive Director of Chi Ishobak, Inc. Meaning “Big Cabbage” in the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi’s language, Chi Ishobak is a certified Native CDFI serving the Pokagon Potawatomi community and other Native people in Michigan and Indiana that was established to offer products and services to build capacity for tribal citizens in the areas of professional and personal finance.  To read the interview, please click here.

Coming this Thursday: “Difference Makers” sits down with Alana Peterson, who serves as Executive Director of Spruce Root, Inc., which serves 23 predominantly Native communities across southeast Alaska. A federally certified Native CDFI, Spruce Root provides local entrepreneurs with access to business development and financial resources in the form of loan capital, business coaching, workshops, and competitions.

To read the other interviews in NCN’s “Difference Makers” series, please click here.

Calendar Reminder: NCN Annual Policy and Capacity Building Summit

December 6-8, 2022

Native CDFI leaders, staff, and other interested stakeholders are encouraged to save December 6-8, 2022 on their calendars to attend the Native CDFI Network’s 2022 Annual Policy and Capacity Building Summit in Washington, D.C. The Summit will be held at the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Conference Center near Capitol Hill, with lodging options within close walking distance of the event. The first day (December 6) will feature a capacity-building training for attendees. Stay tuned for more details!

Fostering thriving communities video still

Why is it so important to SAVE THE DATE to attend NCN’s Annual Policy and Capacity Building Summit on December 6-8, 2022! Watch NCN’s new three-minute video to find out! CLICK BELOW!

WATCH VIDEO HERE

Breaking News: Your input needed on the CDFI Equitable Recovery Program (ERP) eligibility requirements.

On June 23, 2022, the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) announced the opening of the FY 2022 CDFI Equitable Recovery Program (ERP) round with the public release of a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA). The NOFA set forth the deadline for submitting the FY 2022 CDFI ERP Application via the CDFI Fund’s Award Management Information System (AMIS) as 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on September 23, 2022. For more information about the program and application click here.

To determine eligibility, a CDFI must first complete a Pre-Application Eligibility Questionnaire.

NCN is seeking your input on the two EPR eligibility criteria that include: 

  1. At least 30% of the prospective Applicant’s average annual Financial Products closed and Grants made (dollar volume and number of transactions) in the five most recent historic fiscal years must have been closed in ERP Eligible Geographies. To view a map of these eligible geographies, click here.
  2. The prospective Applicant must have audited financial statements for its two most recent historic fiscal years.

Click here to answer 5 questions about how your CDFI is affected by the ERP eligibility criteria. Please respond by 12:00pm ET, Friday, August 5th.

Interview #18 Sean Winters | Chi Ishobak

Interview #18 Sean Winters | Chi Ishobak

Interview #18

SEAN WINTERS | Chi Ishobak

In this latest edition of “Difference Makers,” NCN sits down with Sean Winters, who serves as Executive Director of Chi Ishobak, Inc. Meaning “Big Cabbage” in the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi’s language, Chi Ishobak is a certified Native CDFI serving the Pokagon Potawatomi community and other Native people in Michigan and Indiana that was established to offer products and services to build capacity for tribal citizens in the areas of professional and personal finance.

An enrolled citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, Sean previously served for one year as Sales Coordinator for the Pokagon Band’s Four Winds Casino Resort. In addition to his current role with Chi Ishobak, Sean serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Mno-Bmadsen, Pokagon’s economic development corporation, which is responsible for generating non-gaming revenue for the Band.

In this engaging conversation with NCN, Sean shares how Chi Ishobak empowers its clients in accordance with Pokagon Potawatomi’s core values, and the benefits of partnering with other Native CDFIs to ensure all Native people who need the support Native CDFIs provide can be served.

NCN: Greetings Sean, it’s good to have you with us today. Welcome.

Winters: Awesome to be here. Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you.  

NCN: Why do you what you do? How did leading Chi Ishobak become your life’s calling?

Winters: It really fell into my lap. I was a PGA golf professional for 18 years. My family and I were talking about our next steps. The golf business is very hard to do, so we decided in 2010 to come back home. I worked for our casino briefly in sales and marketing, and then an opportunity came about with Chi Ishobak as a loan officer. I had never heard of Chi Ishobak or CDFIs or mission-driven lending. I had run a small business, but I didn’t know anything about the finance world. So I did some pros and cons with my wife and family, and I started with Chi Ishobak in November 2011. Two months later, our board decided to get rid of our executive director. I was now a lowly staff of one with no industry knowledge, no idea what the heck I was doing, and I started pondering my decision. That was at about 9:00 in the morning and I remember sitting at my desk with a blank computer screen all day long thinking, “Well, what are we going to do?” I remember my grandma always saying, “You get one day to feel sorry for yourself and then you put your pants on and go out and get the work done.

So the next day I started making phone calls to other Native CDFI leaders, and I still maintain those relationships. They were very helpful. We closed our first loans in March 2012 and I was fortunate to receive the executive director position in September 2012. If you would have told me twelve years ago, “Hey, here’s what you’re going to be doing,” I would have said, “You’re crazy.” But I am so happy to be here. This is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. Compensation aside, being a tribal citizen and getting to see the impact we make on tribal citizens and their families, that’s the rush I get out of all of this.

NCN: As you know, there are more than 70 federally certified Native CDFIs across the country and many more “emerging” CDFIs following in their footsteps. Why did Native communities feel it necessary to create CDFIs, and what fundamental role do they play?

“What Chi Ishobak offers is a modern-day gift…It’s not owed to you. It’s something that’s earned and shouldn’t be taken lightly. We’re empowering our people, but we’re doing it the right way. We hold our clients accountable, but we also let them know they have value, and they have our support.”

Winters: The glaring rationale across the board is access to capital. You hear everybody, whether it be government agencies, large banks, or philanthropic endeavors talking about really wanting to be a part of Indian Country. But a lot of times you find once you sit down with those folks and try to find an actual strategy for what they can do, you realize it’s just talk. We’re past the talking point from a CDFI standpoint and we’re making things happen, whether it be commercially or from a consumer standpoint. We can show the quantitative data and the qualitative data that Indian Country does need this level of assistance and that we’re getting it done. But we’re still just scratching the surface when you think about the relatively small number of Native CDFIs across the country with as many tribes as we have. The more eyes we can open through education and relationship building, the more we will get past the talking phase and bring us to mutually beneficial solutions.

NCN: What do policymakers, philanthropy, and the general public who aren’t familiar with Native CDFIs need to understand about them and the difference they make?

Winters: I remember going several years ago to an OFN [Opportunity Finance Network] meeting in Chicago with maybe 40 or 50 CDFIs present and I was the only Native CDFI. When we started doing group activities, not one loan officer, executive director, or CEO had ever even heard of a Native CDFI. That really surprised me because I was still kind of young in the industry. The education is so important. We often aim high by educating our federal policymakers, but sometimes I think we need to start lower, at the state level for example. We have the information and the stories we need to share to demonstrate the need and how Native CDFIs are meeting that need. But where’s the best place to start? How do we reach more folks to share that introduction to Native CDFIs, if you will?

NCN: Tell us more about Chi Ishobak. According to your website, “It is the vision of Chi Ishobak to rebuild the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi as well as Indian Country into supportive and nurturing communities, strong in language and culture, and with all tribal citizens provided with the tools and opportunities needed for meaningful lives and self-sufficiency, whether through employment, self-employment, or traditional lifeways.” So how is it turning that vision into reality?

Winters: My entire life as a tribal citizen myself, I grew up knowing what the stereotypes were about our people. You could either get offended by those or you could use them as fuel. I chose the latter. I’ve always held myself to a higher standard, whether it be in academics, athletics, or just trying to be a good person. Then, as I learned more about our culture and the seven grandfather teachings, the seven generations, and how we got here, I thought, we can’t just offer handouts that enable and entitle our citizens. That doesn’t do anything. I’ve never seen an example of somebody getting something for free who’s truly built something positive. So with that vision, I wanted to make sure Chi Ishobak was being responsible. I wanted to create accountability. We’re not doing this just because of who you are. For centuries, our ancestors did a lot of different things that allowed us to be here today. They respected and truly cared for Mother Earth, the Creator, and everything that was put here was celebrated. Nothing went to waste. You only took as much as you needed in everything you did, and there was homage paid to that. Times have changed, but we still have that cultural obligation to do what’s right by our beliefs and how we’re allowed to be here and why we’re here. Most people don’t think about it this way, but what Chi Ishobak offers is a modern-day gift. It really is. It’s not owed to you. It’s something that’s earned and shouldn’t be taken lightly. We’re empowering our people, but we’re doing it the right way. We hold our clients accountable, but we also let them know they have value, and they have our support. They understand that and they work hard to be an example for our community, but more importantly, for their families. 

NCN: Recently, Chi Ishobak partnered with another certified Native CDFI, the Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation in Oklahoma. What does that partnership consist of and how is it mutually beneficial?

Winters: We have a lot of great colleagues in our industry, but we really identified with Citizen Potawatomi from the get-go because we have similarities, including in our locations, who we serve and where, and the resources we have around us. They have been fantastic in sharing policies and best practices with us. In talking with them, we also identified two lending opportunities where we could partner. One involved a client of ours, a commercial flooring company that was doing some fantastic things. We had given them a revolving line of credit to help them grow, and they had reached the point where they wanted to purchase the building they had been renting. It was something we wanted to do, but we didn’t have the capacity at the time to do it, so we talked with Cindy Logsdon at Citizen Potawatomi and she said, “Oh, we can do this,” and they helped these folks get ownership of their building. After 18 months or so, as we got more comfortable from a loan capital standpoint, we were able to purchase the loan back from them.

The second involved a Citizen Potawatomi citizen that lives in South Bend, Indiana. Cindy came to us and said, “Hey, this gentleman needs help.” So we did a small participation loan with him to help him get an automobile, and he continues to be one of our best customers. Citizen Potawatomi would not have been able to help this individual without us collaborating.

Sean Winters (far left in picture) at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of Bicycle Tattoo and Piercing in South Bend, Indiana, which is owned by Chi Ishobak client David Martin (far right in picture). Also pictured (third from right) is former South Bend Mayor and current U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. (Courtesy: Chi Ishobak)

NCN: Chi Ishobak has helped a great number of people. Is there an individual client success story that really sticks out to you, that really inspires you?

Winters: We had one citizen come in seeking help with his finances. We pulled his credit report and looked at his finances. He was making plenty of money. But he didn’t have anything to show for it, and he was putting $250 a month on credit cards just for bills. We had him list every single thing he spent his money on, and we quickly found that he just liked to spend money. So we created an allocated spending plan for him so he could track where every cent goes and when it goes, and also when he’s able to spend and when he’s not. We were there side by side with him holding his hand, helping him create this new habit. Well, within seven months, he paid off $15,000 in credit card debt and $7,000 he still owed on his truck. He also had saved about $3,000. We cut up 16 of his credit cards and put them in a jar and we still have that in our office. When you find balance, it can be financial balance, it can be spiritual, it can be physical. When he found his financial balance, all of a sudden, within a few months, he lost 70 pounds. He participates in our traditional drumming. For a while, he was going to powwows to win money in these competitions and he was playing poorly. Since he found his balance, he now goes to powwows just because he loves to participate, and he started placing and winning money. His relationships across the board – with his parents, his children, his wife – also got better. All of these things happened because he was now in charge of his financial world. That’s probably the coolest moment I’ve witnessed in this industry. And it wasn’t a loan. It was just somebody that we pointed in the right direction. We helped to show him what his worth is – not just his financial worth, but his personal worth. We celebrate him as a true example of what everybody’s capable of and what’s possible.   

NCN: From your perspective, what do Native CDFIs like yours need to realize their full potential? What support do they need to achieve their missions and maximize their impact?

Winters: I don’t think it’s necessarily just one thing. It’s easy to say, “Hey, more capital.” It’s easy to say, “Yeah, we’ve got our Native set-aside. Fantastic.” We’ve made some fantastic strides, but I would really like to see more opportunities for Native CDFIs, and I don’t just mean grants or awards. We also need to try new approaches so we don’t keep hitting our heads against the same walls. We’re always challenging ourselves. Chi Ishobak just did an internal strategic planning process to refresh our organization’s direction and consider new services and loan products. That’s also why talking with other Native CDFI leaders is so important. If I talk to Pete Upton, Cindy Logsdon, or Jeff Johnson, there are core things we all do, and those things are fantastic. But because of their locations, markets, and just their individual organizations, maybe there are a couple of outlier things they do but not everybody does. So now I can ask, “Would that work here?” And maybe something we do somebody else might get to use. The Native CDFI industry is such a tight community. Everybody will share information. Everybody wants to see everybody else do great things because we’re all family and we’re all working for the same goal. We have to keep our eyes and ears open and be willing to evolve, grow, change, and adapt, and everybody’s done a fantastic job of that in the last two years.

To learn more about Chi Ishobak, please click here.

NCN News for the Week of August 1

U.S. Senate Announces Creation of Community Development Finance Caucus

Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) announced the creation of the Senate Community Development Finance Caucus (CDFC), a bipartisan caucus dedicated to supporting the missions of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) to scale their activities and fuel more lending in low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities.

The 14-member caucus is bipartisan and evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans including Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Tina Smith (D-MN), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Mike Rounds (R-SD).

CDFIs play a critical role in providing responsible and affordable credit to underserved communities. During the pandemic, CDFIs demonstrated their ability to deliver billions of dollars to underserved businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), totaling approximately $34 billion.

On a bipartisan basis, Sen. Warner worked with Sen. Crapo, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and other colleagues to introduce the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, which passed as part of the December 2020 COVID relief package. The bill made a historic $12 billion investment in CDFIs and MDIs, which included $3 billion for grant funding and $9 billion for tier-one capital investments in CDFIs and MDIs, which could be leveraged 10 to 1.

“CDFIs and MDIs play an essential role in providing access to capital in underserved communities. While Congress took significant steps to support community-based lenders over the last two years on a bipartisan basis, CDFIs continue to need more long-term patient capital, operating capital, and resources to modernize their systems and compete in an era of rapid financial innovation. I am happy to announce the creation of this caucus with Sen. Crapo to improve communication between industry and policymakers and continue working in a bipartisan fashion towards robust investments in CDFIs and MDIs,” said Sen. Warner.

“I have consistently heard positive news and success stories about CDFIs in Idaho and across the country, and their responsiveness to the small business community, particularly during these last few challenging years of the pandemic,” said Sen. Crapo. “Sen. Warner and I are proud to launch this caucus to educate members and staff about the important role CDFIs play in their communities, and to create a forum to share ideas and policy proposals that foster strong economic growth in local communities.

A summary deck describing the caucus can be found here. More information on the caucus can be found on its webpage here.

The Community Development Finance Caucus has the support of a number of organizations and financial institutions, including Native CDFI Network and individual Native CDFIs across the country.

“On behalf of the Native CDFI Network (NCN), NCN applauds the bipartisan effort of Sens. Crapo and Warner to establish a Community Development Finance Caucus within the United States Senate.  Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) have proven to be an irreplaceable mechanism for channeling critically needed capital into low- and moderate-income communities. This is especially true in Indian Country, where Native communities have long experienced substantially higher rates of poverty and unemployment than mainstream America. They also face a unique set of challenges to economic growth, such as: poor/lacking physical, legal, and telecommunications infrastructure; limited access to affordable financial products and services for consumers, aspiring homeowners, and would-be entrepreneurs; and limited workforce development strategies to support Native people’s full participation in their local economies. NCN looks forward to the opportunity to have a Caucus that supports the work of CDFI’s,” said Pete Upton, Interim Executive Director of the Native CDFI Network.

“I would like to applaud the hard work from Sens. Crapo and Warner toward the development of the Community Development Finance Caucus. We are excited at the opportunity to have a caucus dedicated to the work and efforts of the many CDFI practitioners working on the ground every day,” said Ted Piccolo, Executive Director of the Northwest Native Development Fund.

Comments on the Community Reinvestment Act NPR Due This Friday

In early May, the three agencies tasked with regulating banking institutions’ compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) jointly released their much-anticipated Interagency CRA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) designed to strengthen and modernized the regulations governing the Act. Importantly, the NPR features a section specifically focused on Indian Country titled “Native Land Areas” (see pages 96-103, as well as two sections focused on CDFIs.

COMMENT PERIOD ENDS THIS FRIDAY, AUGUST 5, 2022: Native CDFIs, tribal governments, and other interested stakeholders have until this Friday, August 5 to submit formal comments on the NPR. To review the NPR and submit comments, please click here.

NCN “Difference Makers” Interview Series:
Lakota Vogel and Sean Winters

Last week, the Native CDFI Network released its latest edition of “Native CDFIs: Difference Makers for Indian Country,” an interview with Lakota Vogel, who serves as Executive Director of Four Bands Community Fund, Inc., a federally certified Native CDFI based on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota whose mission is to create economic opportunity by helping Native people build strong and sustainable small businesses and increase their financial capability to create assets and wealth. To read the interview, please click here.

Coming this Thursday: “Difference Makers” sits down with Sean Winters, who serves as Executive Director of Chi Ishobak, Inc. Meaning “Big Cabbage” in the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi’s language, Chi Ishobak is a certified Native CDFI serving the Pokagon Potawatomi community and other Native people in Michigan and Indiana that was established to offer products and services to build capacity for tribal citizens in the areas of professional and personal finance.

To read the other interviews in NCN’s “Difference Makers” series, please click here.

Invitation to Participate in the CDFI Fund’s New Markets Tax Credit Program Native Initiative Technical Workshops

The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) recently launched the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Native Initiative to increase NMTC investment in Federal Indian Reservations, Off-Reservation Trust Lands, Hawaiian Home Lands, and Alaska Native Village Statistical Areas, collectively referred to as NMTC Native Areas. We are writing to invite you to participate in the upcoming Technical Workshops.

The CDFI Fund announced the selection of a contractor, Big Water Consulting, to support this effort. In collaboration with the CDFI Fund, Big Water Consulting will host two Technical Workshops on the NMTC Program that are free of charge. These Technical Workshops will provide an overview of the NMTC Program and in-depth technical information on ways that your organization can participate in the NMTC Program.

Technical Workshop 1: Introduction to the NMTC Program

The first workshop will be held at the Embassy Suites in Denver, CO (1420 Stout St, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 592-1000; Embassy Suites Denver Downtown Convention Center Hotel (hilton.com)) on September 21 and 22, 2022. This workshop will introduce participants to the NMTC Program and assist them in determining if the NMTC Program can help them achieve their community and economic development goals. Among other topics, the workshop will detail the types of projects that are eligible for NMTC financing, how NMTC financing is structured, the roles of the various participants in an NMTC transaction, and ways the NMTC program can be used to invest in NMTC Native Areas.

This workshop is designed primarily for organizations with a limited knowledge of the NMTC Program. Participants will have an opportunity to hear from national NMTC Program experts and also from certified Community Development Entities (CDEs) that have successfully used the NMTC Program to invest in NMTC Native Areas.

Technical Workshop 2: How to Access and Use NMTCs for Community and Economic Development

The second workshop will be held in in early 2023, with the exact date and location still to be determined. This workshop will be more advanced and technical in nature. It is designed for organizations that have already been certified as a CDE, those that are considering CDE certification, and organizations that might be interested in applying for an NMTC Allocation. This workshop will provide a more in-depth discussion of how NMTC transactions are structured and discuss strategies for addressing the challenges associated with using the NMTC Program to invest in NMTC Native Areas. It will also provide participants with an understanding of using NMTCs as gap financing to enhance a business or a projects economic viability, along with the other types of capital needed to finance larger businesses or projects. Participants will learn about the NMTC application process, including the development of an NMTC business plan, technical information necessary to be competitive, and the compliance-related responsibilities associated with receiving an NMTC Allocation.

How to Participate

Representatives of Native organizations, including Tribal Entities, Alaskan Native Villages, Native Hawaiian communities, Native CDFIs, and Native CDEs are all eligible to participate in the Technical Workshops. As previously mentioned, the workshops will be free of charge and organizations are welcome to attend one or both. Please note that the workshops will also be streamed virtually. We are able to offer financial assistance, if needed, to help cover certain approved travel expenses. When you complete the Technical Workshop Intake Form, you will have an opportunity to indicate which workshop you are interested in attending and if your in-person attendance depends on the availability of financial assistance. We have a limited amount of funding to cover participant travel costs and therefore, will only consider providing financial assistance to cover approved travel expenses for one person per organization. If you are interested in attending one or both workshops, please click the link below and complete the Technical Workshop Intake Form. The information requested is critically important for us to determine demand and tailor the workshops to meet the needs of participants:

Intake Form – NMTC Workshop 1 (with skip logic) (ourcommunitydata.com)

Please share this invitation with individuals in your network who may be interested in participating in the Technical Workshops. Once registration is completed, Big Water will provide a weblink to participants who would like to reserve a room in the Embassy Suites hotel room block. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Holly Bolstad, Research Coordinator at Big Water Consulting, at (206) 466- 2065 or holly@bigwaterconsulting.net.