Like many lasting relationships, Regions Bank and the nonprofit Justine PETERSEN Housing and Reinvestment Corporation have a long history together and share mutual interests and priorities.
Both organizations understand that affordable housing, financial education and small-business empowerment are fundamental to uplifting communities. And they have been working together for many years to further those objectives.
Most recently, the relationship has focused on small-business development. Regions Community Development Corporation, or RCDC, provided a $2.5 million non-revolving line of credit to Great Rivers Community Capital, which is a community development financial institution (CDFI) and subsidiary of Justine PETERSEN.
“We are pleased to extend this relationship with Great Rivers Community Capital through their parent organization, Justine PETERSEN,” said David Christian, chief operating officer of the RCDC. “Helping small businesses launch and succeed is central to RCDC’s vision. By collaborating with CDFIs like Great Rivers, we can extend our reach deeper into our communities and ensure every person and every business have the opportunity for financial success.”
The RCDC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Regions Bank that supports underserved communities lacking access to traditional sources of capital by providing debt and equity financing for projects and entities with a community development purpose. The loan to Great Rivers is a good example of how the RCDC is executing its mission.
Helping small businesses launch and succeed is central to RCDC’s vision.David Christian, chief operating officer of the RCDC
This loan increased RCDC’s existing capital commitment to Great Rivers so the CDFI can, in turn, provide small business financing in Central Illinois – with an emphasis on the areas in and around Decatur, Peoria, Springfield and Bloomington.
CDFIs are private financial institutions dedicated to delivering responsible, affordable lending to help low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities join the economic mainstream. Often, CDFIs can offer more flexible terms and conditions to borrowers sometimes labeled “too risky” for traditional financing — and these institutions have a strong track record of success. Additionally, many of the institutions are located in small towns, rural areas or urban centers where larger banks don’t have a presence.
“Great Rivers Community Capital shares the mission of its parent, Justine PETERSEN, which is to assist target markets of underserved people with building their economic mobility,” said Sheri Flanigan-Vazquez, chief operating officer of the organization. “Many small business owners in our Central Illinois market are unable to access capital at a fair or equitable rate. We’ve found that often these owners or potential entrepreneurs are people of color or lower-income people that have plenty of business acumen, they just are unable to get funding.”
According to CDFI trade group Opportunity Finance Network, its members have originated more than $100 billion in financing and the CDFI industry at large manages more than $222 billion today.
Those impact statistics are particularly impressive when considering that many individuals and small businesses come to CDFIs for loans for much smaller amounts than traditional banks.
“Traditional banks tend to focus on larger, more profitable business loans,” said Eric Madkins, Community Development Manager at Regions. “But many small businesses don’t need large loans, especially when they’re just getting started. Helping these entrepreneurs get a jump start and get into the small business ecosystem is an important service to communities.”
According to Flanigan-Vazquez, most of the RCDC funding will go directly to small businesses for expenses such as renovation, inventory, space expansion and staffing. It will also help Great Rivers provide technical assistance to new business owners to help them navigate the challenges of starting a business.
The CDFI will also utilize some of the funding to help develop future entrepreneurs. “A portion of the disbursement go to help build the credit scores of hopeful business owners so they can access our small business products in the future,” Flanigan-Vazquez said.
Both Regions and Justine PETERSEN are extremely enthusiastic about the opportunities this funding provides for an area of the bank’s footprint that’s critically important to both organizations.
“This impact investment with a trusted community partner allows Regions to create capital for small businesses, which will benefit the entire Central Illinois community,” Christian said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”