Southeast Regional Meeting, Jim King, Xochitl Torress Small, Lisa Mensah

Recap of OFN Southeast Regional Meeting in Kentucky

Ashley Austin

OFN hosted our 2022 Southeast Regional Meeting on June 8, and we’d say it was a success! Held at the historic Boone Tavern Hotel in Berea, KY, this convening was our first in-person regional meeting since 2019. From opportunities to engage with peers both new and old, to an insightful panel discussion featuring Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small, the meeting offered attendees valuable time and space to learn, connect, and collaborate.

With over 60 participants representing CDFIs, government agencies, investors and funders, and other partner organizations, the meeting kicked off with introductory remarks by OFN Executive Vice President of Membership Seth Julyan. Next, Under Secretary Torres Small was joined by Jim King, president and CEO of Fahe, and Lisa Mensah, president and CEO of OFN, for a panel discussion about investing in rural America, including priorities and initiatives such as the Rural Partners Network, Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grants, and other programs. The panelists also participated in an interactive Q&A with attendees.

Later each CDFI in attendance provided status updates on the challenges and opportunities they’re currently facing. Then attendees voted on the most pressing topics to discuss in smaller groups. Topics included finding talent in the CDFI space, finding long-term, low-cost capital, changing the narrative around rural America, and more.

Following lunch, Mary Scott Balys, vice president of public policy at OFN, shared updates on the latest D.C. policy activity, including:

  • 2022 Congressional Outlook
  • FY 2023 Appropriations and the Biden-Harris budget
  • CDFI Priority Legislation
  • New Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Proposed Rule
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) Community Advantage Program
  • Duty to Serve Plans

The meeting concluded with an OFN President’s Report from Lisa Mensah. She touched on the amazing day spent by OFN staff, local member CDFIs, and CDFI partners visiting CDFI-funded projects in Kentucky the day prior to the meeting. She also shared updates on OFN’s offices opening up post-COVID, the incredible work CDFIs accomplished amidst the pandemic, and what to expect from OFN in the near future, including the 2022 OFN Conference.

OFN thanks the many participants and supporters of our 2022 Southeast Regional Meeting, especially Under Secretary Torres Small for making time to join us in Berea! We also thank Wells Fargo for their generous support of our 2022 Regional Meetings.

Join us for our two remaining 2022 OFN Regional Meetings: Chicago on June 21 and Oakland on July 12!

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