NCIFund Strengthens Community Development Work in Appalachia and the Southeast with OFN Financing

Caroline Valvardi

With the support of recent financing from OFN, CDFI Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIFund) is continuing to strengthen its community development work in underserved rural and urban markets in West Virginia, North Carolina, and other communities in central Appalachia and the Southeast.

An OFN member since 2003, NCIFund was established in 1999 by The Conservation Fund (TCF), a nonprofit organization committed to environmental preservation and economic development. NCIFund focuses on providing financing and business assistance to entrepreneurs whose enterprises rely on natural resources, such as agriculture and sustainable energy, and to vital community services.

Doubling its lending to entrepreneurs of color in 2018 and providing half of its financing to women-owned businesses, NCIFund has considerably expanded its programming over the past few years. NCIFund’s financing from OFN will allow the organization to grow its impactful and innovative services even further and expand its environmental benefits and job creation impact (4,500 total jobs created and retained since 2001).

“NCIFund is committed to creating good jobs and positive environmental and community changes in Central Appalachia and the Southeast,” states Marten Jenkens, NCIFund President and CEO. “We can’t accomplish our triple-bottom-line impacts without supportive funders – like OFN – who understand and value the critical work we do to support promising entrepreneurs in rural and urban communities alike where traditional lenders won’t lend.”

NCIFund stood out to OFN’s financial services team as a leader in funding sustainable community development projects in rural communities and areas of persistent poverty. One example is NCIFund’s “bridge” loan to local mushroom farmer Wilbert Jeffries, provided in conjunction with the USDA’s reimbursable NRCS EQIP funding, which allowed Jeffries to build a hoophouse to generate more income for his business and ultimately maintain his black-owned farmland in North Carolina’s Piedmont region.

Equally noteworthy is the impact generated by NCIFund’s investments in energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. Named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in the United States in 2018, NCIFund borrower GreaseCycle recycles millions of pounds of used cooking oil and waste trap grease from North Carolina businesses every year. With NCIFund’s support, GreaseCycle has grown from four to eighteen employees and from servicing 350 restaurants to 1,700 accounts since 2012.

Dedicated to providing wholistic resources to help strengthen its CDFI member network, OFN offers a variety of financing options to eligible OFN members.

Photo credits: © Bill Bamberger

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