CDFIs Gather in Kansas City for OFN Midwest Regional Meeting

Mary Scott Balys

Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) held its Midwest Regional Meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, on August 27 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. With nearly 60 practitioners in attendance, the meeting kicked off with a welcome from Jackson Windett of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Seth Julyan, Executive Vice President of Membership at OFN followed with an update on the organization’s current events, including the recent move into our brand new headquarters at 901 D St. SW in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Dafina Williams, Vice President of Public Policy, and Mary Scott Hardwick, Senior Associate of Public Policy, shared an update on OFN’s policy priorities and the current state of play in D.C.

Next, CDFIs took turns introducing themselves and talking about challenges and opportunities they are currently facing. Then attendees broke into small groups to discuss topics brought up during the introductions, including coalition building and advocacy, loan management and underwriting, and capitalization.

After breaking for lunch and networking, OFN President and CEO Lisa Mensah shared her report on the state of the CDFI industry, OFN’s activities and a vision for the future of the field. CDFI Fund Director Jodie Harris also joined attendees in Kansas City and provided updates on the status of the Fund’s programs and timing of future rounds.

In the afternoon, attendees had the option of attending one of two break out sessions: Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy from 100 Resilient Cities presented on Financing Resilience while Mary Scott Hardwick and Ruben Alonso from AltCap presented on the state of Opportunity Zones and AltCap’s work to start Opportunity Funds under their newly created subsidiary, Equity2. To conclude the meeting, Seth Julyan returned to the podium to thank attendees for their participation and encouraged them to register for the this year’s OFN Conference, to be held October 20-23 in Washington, D.C.

Following the meeting, the OFN team spent the next day visiting three CDFI-funded projects in Kansas City. The first stop was Ruby Jean’s Juicery on Troost Street, a small business supported with financing from AltCap to expand its operations, including a new partnership with Whole Foods! 

Next, the group visited the Emmanuel Family and Childhood Development Center to see progress on their new facility, which is being financed using a New Markets Tax Credit allocation and financing from AltCap, IFF, and Central Bank of Kansas City, as well as many other community partners. The new facility is slated to open by the end of the year and will allow Emmanuel to increase the number of families they serve and offer new services, including an in-house health clinic.

Finally, the group toured a renovated factory back on Troost Street that AltCap helped finance with a New Markets Tax Credit allocation and has now been converted into a mixed-use facility with housing, a health clinic, coffee shop, gym, and soon to include a new restaurant.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Midwest Regional Meeting and to our site tour hosts! Also, thank you to Wells Fargo for their continued support and sponsorship of our 2019 Regional Meetings.