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Initiative’s 2013 investments and trainings promote entrepreneurial approaches to community development

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December 18, 2013 – The North Carolina Community Development Initiative invested more than $3.4 million and 37 training hours in community-based enterprises across the state in 2013, helping to develop entrepreneurial approaches to economic growth in the communities they serve and strengthen their operations for the future.

“We are focused on making North Carolina’s community economic development network the strongest in the nation,” Initiative CEO Abdul Rasheed said. “These continue to be difficult economic times, but the Initiative and our partners around the state are innovating to find new approaches to building strong local economies and safe, thriving communities.”

The Initiative and its lending arm, Initiative Capital, promotes economic growth in low-income and distressed communities by investing in local nonprofits and businesses that serve those areas; identifying new, sustainable strategies for community economic growth; and developing effective community economic development leaders.

The Initiative’s work is made possible by major funding provided by the State of North Carolina, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation BB&T Corp., PNC Bank, NeighborWorks America and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, donations from public, private and nonprofit sources, and revenues generated from enterprises created by the Initiative, Initiative Capital and its grantees to sustain their community economic development work.

Financial investments fund sustainable development


The Initiative awarded $2.1 million in grants during 2013 to 26 organizations that promote economic growth in low-income and traditionally underserved communities across North Carolina.

Nineteen received Community Enterprise Fund grants, which they leveraged with funds from other public and private sources to implement strategic economic development plans in their communities.

Seven received Capacity Building grants to help community economic development organizations increase their capacity to make a positive impact on their community.

Initiative Capital invested more than $1.3 million in loans to help nonprofit developers complete vital economic development projects in underserved communities.

Highlights of the Initiative’s investment-funded projects in 2013 include:

  • On March 25, East Carolina Community Development Inc. celebrated the grand opening of its largest multi-family development to date, Wellington Grove apartments in Jacksonville. The 88-unit apartment community provides safe, affordable housing to more than 200 residents and created three permanent jobs and 163 temporary ones.
  • On April 1, Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte officially opened Sustainability Village, an innovative living-learning prototype that incorporates academic coursework, service-learning activities and applied research to benefit the campus, the surrounding community and beyond. Students, faculty and staff take part by maintaining and working in the village’s garden plots, composting area, greenhouses and aquaponic system. The village’s community garden extends its reach beyond the university gates to its neighbors in an effort to help alleviate the area’s food desert.
  • In Durham, CAARE Inc. received a $600,000 low-interest loan from Initiative Capital and the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center to expand a transitional housing facility to serve homeless veterans. Before the renovation, CAARE was able to house 15 veterans but the expansion allows it to serve 24 with housing, three meals a day and access to comprehensive support services, including substance abuse counseling, GED programs, employment counseling and case management. CAARE has an impressive 86 percent success rate at placing veterans into permanent housing.
  • Passage Home recently completed construction of a new medical clinic in southeast Raleigh. The building is a new, larger location for the Debnam Clinic which has provided primary medical care for thousands of people in the community since its founding in 1961. Passage Home led the clinic renovations and will lease the buidling to the Debnam family as the first step of a comprehensive community development strategy to reduce poverty and homelessness in the area.
  • In Wilmington, Feast Down East used its 2012 Initiative Innovation Fund grant to implement a farmers’ market in partnership with the Wilmington Housing Authority that accepts residents’ EBT cards for purchases of fresh, local food. In 2013, the Rankin Terrace Fresh Market provided Rankin Terrace residents with access to 65 varieties of fruits and vegetables from 27 different local farmers. Over 1,900 pounds of fresh foods were purchased by residents living in the community, which was previously a food desert.
  • In Asheville, Eagle Market Streets Development Corp. (EMSDC) launched a commercial sewing business and workforce development program called Block by Block Industries which employs two full-time and three part-time workers, and brought in nearly $10,000 in its first year to support EMSDC’s community economic development activities. The innovative social enterprise will provide job training to low- to moderate-income individuals from chronically unemployed communities.

Innovations create solutions for a new economy

After rolling out its new investment strategy in 2012, the Initiative spent much of 2013 focused on providing innovative training and staff development opportunities to its partners and the community economic development sector.

The Initiative launched its newly expanded Technical Assistance program in January, which offers a menu of resources and services designed to help community economic development organizations implement strategic plans and have greater impact in the communities they serve.

“Our technical assistance program offers six pathways of services that allow us to provide customized support to partners based on the needs they identify as critical to their work and impact,” said LaVett Saddler, the Initiative’s program officer for innovations, who directs the technical assistance program. “These programs are designed to help our partners strengthen their capacity, reduce risk, increase efficiencies and troubleshoot problems.”

Over 350 people participated in the 16 webinars, in-person trainings, and alliance trainings (workshops offered through an Initiative partner) provided in 2013.

Other Initiative-led innovations in 2013 include:

  • In April, the Initiative brought together leaders of the environmental and community economic development sectors for a Green Summit on residential energy efficiency where participants shared community-based models and began discussions about creating and sustaining long-term markets for residential energy efficiency in North Carolina. The Initiative used the opportunity to share and get feedback on the challenges and opportunities for scaling energy efficiency efforts in North Carolina and in bringing services to the untapped affordable housing and multi-family housing markets.
  • To respond to the needs of its partners, the Initiative provided resources for four organizations to partner with real estate asset preservation consultants to evaluate their real estate holdings and develop plans to stabilize the organization’s assets. Each participating organization received findings and recommendations at the end of the project.
  • In June, the Initiative hosted a social enterprise innovation forum to give recipients of its Innovation Fund grants an opportunity to present their outcomes and receive feedback from potential investors and industry leaders. The Innovation Forum provided an opportunity for partners to identify and share information about new approaches to solving critical community needs while better positioning them to raise the type of growth capital needed to sustain and scale their work.

Initiative develops current and future sector leaders

The Initiative’s leadership development activities in 2013 focused on helping the sector think strategically about ensuring its long-term sustainability and meeting the changing needs of low-income communities.

The Initiative provided intensive leadership development training opportunities, including:

  • The sixth class of high school seniors participated in the Initiative’s Summer Youth Leadership Program. The eight-week program included leadership seminars provided by the Initiative and community economic development projects in the interns’ own communities hosted by nonprofits across the state. The youth program is part of the Initiative’s long-term strategy to develop state leaders who understand the unique needs of low-income communities and can help strengthen their economies.
  • In November, the Initiative held a two-day Leadership Development Conference, providing 34 partners with access to renowned mission-based management consultant Peter Brinckerhoff, who led them through an intensive training on smart stewardship for nonprofits. The Conference also included sessions on the business perspective of community economic development – led by the UNC School of Government – and on seizing opportunities in the sector – led by Anita Brown-Graham of the Institute for Emerging Issues.

The N.C. Community Development Initiative leads North Carolina’s collaborative community economic development effort, driving innovation, investment and action to create prosperous, sustainable communities. For more information or to get involved, visit www.ncinitiative.org or call (919) 828-5655.