Client: Catawba Vale Community Center Project, managed by Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation (EMSDC)
Client Location: Old Fort, NC
CDFI: Mountain Bizworks and Appalachian Community Capital (via Opportunity Appalachia)
CDFI Service Area: AL, GA, KY, MD, MS, NY, NC, OH, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV
Financing and technical assistance
Economic opportunity is limited in Central Appalachia. The region lacks the capacity to develop projects in several asset classes, including manufacturing, community facilities, mixed-use, commercial, and affordable housing.
The Opportunity Appalachia program, whose partners include OFN members Appalachian Community Capital, Mountain BizWorks, and Coastal Enterprises, Inc., is addressing this need by bringing new, diversified investment and technical assistance to Central Appalachian Communities, leading to the creation of new jobs and businesses that support sustainable growth.
Investment priorities include downtown development, manufacturing, IT, healthcare, education, food systems, clean energy, and heritage tourism and recreation — primarily in rural communities. In addition to funding, technical assistance is also offered for participating projects, including preparing business plans and financial projections, market research, identifying project developers, investor outreach, and more.
Opportunity Appalachia Supports the Catawba Vale Community Center
Opportunity Appalachia’s ultimate goal is to attract investors who will work closely with project sponsors, such as Stephanie Swepson Twitty. A native of McDowell County and resident of Old Fort, North Carolina, Stephanie is a driving force behind the Catawba Vale Community Center project, which is located within an Opportunity Zone and is eligible for New Markets Tax Credits.
Stephanie Swepson Twitty, CEO of Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation, worked with Opportunity Appalachia for the opening of the Catawba Vale Business HUB, a coffee and coworking space for small business owners
Stephanie’s passion for seeing Old Fort thrive economically led her to serve as president and CEO of Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation (EMSDC). She chose to work with Opportunity Appalachia because of the organization’s commitment to community development and its expertise in financing projects aligned with community goals and providing technical assistance at the critical pre-development stages of projects.
Stephanie has also played a vital role in opening the Catawba Vale Business HUB, the first business of color on Old Fort’s Main Street since 1924. She is also leading the development of the Catawba Vale Innovation Market, a business accelerator space in partnership with various organizations.
Photo courtesy of Catawba Vale Business Hub
Opportunity Appalachia’s Impact
Since 2020, over 140 projects have requested participation through Opportunity Appalachia, of which 58 were selected to receive technical assistance. Selected projects are currently seeking over $420 million in financing, which is projected to create over 3,000 local jobs — including jobs for individuals in addiction recovery, the long-term unemployed, such as former coal industry workers, and people of color and women.
Assistance from Opportunity Appalachia, Swepson-Twitty says, includes critical technical support and guidance in getting the projects started, as well as direct connections with the group’s funders for future capital. “They are providing us an opportunity for pre-development work that happens with construction. That is often the most difficult money to acquire and includes help with architects, engineering and permitting,” she says. “If I had to draw up a wish list of how I would do a development, this is it.” (Source: Mountain Xpress)
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