Ajo Copper News Features CIC Lending

Alternative financing available for Ajo area businesses

Ajo Copper News branded image

Community Investment Corporation of Tucson’s stated goal is “to promote economic inclusion for all members of southern Arizona, regardless of socioeconomic status.” They say their work “ensures that more people in our community can buy homes, can access the education they want for their children, and can get the funding they need to start, sustain, and grow their small businesses.” CIC (cictucson.org) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded in 1996.

Brandi Szymanski, CIC’s rural lending manager, came to Ajo last week for the Ajo District Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting to explain more about the many ways some of CIC’s programs may benefit Ajo area individuals and businesses. She said CIC became aware of the recent border closure and its impact on Ajo area businesses and wanted to step in to help. CIC’s three program areas are housing, entrepreneurship, and education. Szymanski’s focus at last week’s meeting was on entrepreneurship, specifically small business financing.

CIC offers low interest alternative financing for business owners who do not qualify for traditional bank loans. Their small business lending program provides access to capital at competitive interest rates with flexible terms and provides lending solutions for organizations of every size. Small business loans are offered in amounts $500-100,000 for 1-5 years at fixed interest rates of 8-10%. Documents required during the application process include establishing a time in business of at least 6 months (though startups may be considered on an exception basis), proof of a business bank account, collateral, proof of business taxes, a profit and loss statement, balance sheet, registered business or trade name, and a credit check (no minimum score is required). If a business is less than two years old, a business plan is required.

Understanding that the process can be daunting, CIC offers flexibility and support during the application process, including assistance in preparing documents. Szymanski emphasized three considerations before seeking funding: how much money is needed, how the money will be spent, and what collateral is available.

In addition to small business lending, CIC offers a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community managed loan fund. The fund offers interest-free microloans of $500-10,000 with a “storytelling-based application.” No documents are required to apply, and support will be provided in preparing documents during the application process. At least 50% of business ownership must identify as BIPOC to be eligible. BIPOC loans require proof of a business bank account, a profit & loss statement, and a registered business or trade name prior to being given funding. Credit checks, collateral, and loan fees are not required, and a business can be in any stage, including startups.

BIPOC exemplifies characterbased lending, an underwriting approach where a borrower’s personal qualities, community reputation, and other factors beyond credit scores and collateral are given greater emphasis. A volunteer committee make decisions regarding the loan fund. Potential borrowers may apply via video or audio as well as in writing.

Brandi Szymanski of Community Investment Corporation was a guest speaker at the Ajo District Chamber of Commerce’s January meeting. CofC director Bo Johnson (left) and Brian Kerr (right) of Z89.3 were among those who attended. Photo courtesy of Ajo Copper News

For either small business or BIPOC loans, and for those who aren’t quite ready for their first loan, CIC offers referrals to business education courses and other resources. The CIC website offers information about starting a business, understanding finances, as well as how loans work.

Szymanski emphasized CIC’s motto “We Know Your Worth” by relaying that CIC is concerned about what’s best for applicants, and that if CIC turns out not to be the best option for someone, CIC will work with an individual to find alternatives.

Following her presentation, she welcomed comments and questions about her organization. Aaron Cooper, executive director of ISDA spoke about how responsive CIC has been to Ajo, having collaborated with ISDA several times in the past. In fact, CIC funds helped keep the Plaza going, he said.

Cristal Franco, Ajo Business Support Center’s manager, told the Ajo Copper News that the business center is considering offering either virtual or in-person office hours to CIC and that “they’ve been a very helpful partner.”

Szymanski encouraged anyone with questions or curiosity about CIC assistance to email her at brandi@cictucson.org or call her at 520-529-1766 extension 216.

Originally published in Ajo Copper News.

Tucson Agenda Covers Social Innovation Hackathon

The Daily Agenda: Brainstorming a brighter future

By Liv Leonard, Tucson Agenda Spring Reporter

 

The people tasked with solving the world’s problems are restricted by bureaucracy, rules and limitations that can be as challenging to navigate as the problems themselves.

But participants of Saturday’s Social Innovation Hackathon were asked to imagine a world without barriers while brainstorming policies, projects and processes to help people who have lost or are at risk of losing their homes.

For those who’ve never heard of a hackathon, they aim to foster collaboration and innovation, but usually focus on IT.

Tucson’s first-ever Social Innovation Hackathon was co-hosted by the Community Investment Corporation, Startup Tucson and Tucson Young Professionals.

The hope is that by bringing different expertise and ideas into the mix, participants would think of comprehensive and holistic solutions that take into account different viewpoints, experiences and limitations.

The nearly 50 participants included representatives from nonprofits, businesses, community groups, local government, and even journalists, since Caitlin and our Tucson Agenda intern, Liv Leonard, were along for the ride.

Read the full article on the Tucson Agenda.

Tucson Nonprofits Seek Solutions for Unhoused Populations

CIC hosting a Social Innovation Hackathon; La Frontera shares focus on behavior health, barriers, and building trust

a flyer for CIC Tucson's Social Innovation Hackathon shown during the evening broadcast for KGUN9 News

By Reyna Preciado, KGUN9

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — After the recent increase in homelessness seen in areas in South Tucson and the Southside, the conversation continues to show the reality of housing-related issues, but also the real work that’s being done.

La Frontera has been serving Tucson and South Tucson since 1968. Their focus started in behavioral health, but has now moved to a broader brand of “community problem-solving.” When it comes to homelessness, the nonprofit prioritizes behavioral health because it can be a huge barrier for getting into housing.

“Our outreach team goes out into the community and finds folks that are experiencing homelessness you know that we all see out there. Our outreach team is folks of lived experience because it helps them build rapport with them and getting those folks to trust them. It’s not easy to bring them in,” described Guillermo Andrade, Director of Housing Supportive Services, Veteran Supportive Services, and Homelessness.

La Frontera provides several services, including housing specifically for people with behavioral issues. The CEO Dan Ranieri said the nonprofit has their vision for future solutions. He considered the setbacks unhoused people face due to not having proper documentation and envisioned the big picture.

“The first thing we need is we need a transitional site and it needs to be large. But it’s to do the assessment, plug them into the services we need, get them their documentation, if they’re employable or trainable and want to work, we’ll get them trained and employed and then get them into permanent housing,” said Ranieri.

While La Frontera already has the vision, Community Investment Corporation hopes to continue the conversation with a Hackathon event to inspire more solutions.

“Sometimes we think that’s the best, people with new fresh eyes, people who are passionate about this, who see this as a problem that they want to get involved in solving, we think this is a way for people to do it. And they’ll also get to connect with the organizations that are already doing this work,” said Executive Director Danny Knee.

The Hackathon Event will be from 9:30 AM to 3 PM on Saturday, February 3rd at the University of Arizona FORGE.

Read the original article on KGUN9.com.

Free online resource for Tucson families looking to explore different school options

MySchoolsTucson is an online school locator for families to explore education options in town, created by Community Investment Corporation

By Brooke Chau, KGUN9

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A new resource is available for families in Tucson looking to explore different school options.

MySchoolsTucson is a free online school locator created by a Tucson non-profit called Community Investment Corporation (CIC).

“It’s meant to be a one stop shop for families in Tucson,” said Scott Evans from CIC. “There are a variety of filters, language options, and you can filter what you want like virtual or alternative schools.”

MySchoolsTucson is made with tools to explore the different school options in the Tucson area to ultimately make the best decision for your child— which is something Evans tells KGUN9 he wishes he had when he moved to southern Arizona.

“We were in the dark and that’s sort of where this was born from was my experience,” he said. “I saw an opportunity to try to create something and bring it to the community to help families that had less knowledge than I did.”

Map locators, filters, and overall information on each school has already helped parents like Fabiola Bedoya. She is a single mom raising a five-year-old bilingual son. Bedoya says the website made her change her mind on where to send her son for kindergarten in TUSD.

“I’ve been touring schools for a little bit over six months,” said Bedoya. “He just really lit up at this last one.”

Single parents, low-income and minority families are the demographic that Evans had in mind when creating this service but hopes it can be a resource in every household in Tucson that has kids in school.

“We saw those gaps and that’s where we as a nonprofit and mission based organization wanted to come in and make a difference,” said Evans.

For more information on the website, click here or call (520) 529-1766 Ext. 214.

Read the original article on KGUN9.com

Empowering Families: A Discussion On Informed School Selection

Check out this insightful open discussion dedicated to strategies communities can take to help families navigate the diverse educational landscape. This session, centered on families and students, was led by Scott Evans, Director of Family and School Engagement

BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund Celebrates Two Years of Impact and Expands Partnerships with Growth Partners Arizona and Startup Tucson

Two years after launching an innovative loan fund in collaboration with leaders of color in the Tucson business community, Community Investment Corporation (CIC) and the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Community Managed Loan Fund are celebrating their 50th no-interest loan. The fund, which focuses on improving capital access to entrepreneurs of color, has made over $400,000 in loans to date across Southern Arizona.

The celebration also marks an expansion of two key partnerships with local nonprofit organizations, Growth Partners Arizona and Startup Tucson. For its part, Startup Tucson is creating the first paid position for what has, to date, been an all-volunteer management committee, while Growth Partners Arizona will be expanding the fund’s lending footprint in 2024 to central and northern Arizona through a $250,000 grant from Wells Fargo. The expansion will include targeted outreach to rural BIPOC entrepreneurs.

Growth Partners Arizona, a certified Community Development Financial Institution, recently invested $100,000 in the BIPOC Loan Fund to serve southern Arizona and have now committed another $250,000 to expand the fund’s lending footprint to the entire state. The $250,000 comes from a grant from Wells Fargo and supports the bank’s work to accelerate the growth of underserved small businesses across the country through investments that increase access to capital, expand entrepreneurial networks, and provide access to knowledge through technical assistance and capacity building resources.

This investment is a part of our larger focus to expand innovative lending programs throughout the state of Arizona. Thanks to the funding from our partners at Wells Fargo we will be able to start the new year off making a significant investment within our rural communities. As we look ahead to the future we are excited to continue to build towards a more inclusive economy.

Startup Tucson, a Tucson-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to revolutionize the Southern Arizona region’s economy through entrepreneurship and innovation, is committing part of the time of their Director of Entrepreneur Success and Access to Capital, Keneshia Raymond, to helping expand the fund’s impact. Raymond is a founding committee member of the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund and will become the BIPOC Loan Fund’s first funded staff person.

Raymond will play a pivotal role in spearheading this initiative and expanding its reach, resources, and impact. Raymond will collaborate closely with CIC to develop comprehensive strategies, promote awareness, secure funding, and provide strong leadership to ensure the BIPOC Loan Fund’s continued growth and sustainability.

Startup Tucson recognizes the pressing need within the community for equitable and accessible access to capital for BIPOC business owners. “At Startup Tucson we champion the BIPOC Loan Fund and wholeheartedly support its mission to empower underrepresented entrepreneurs and foster a more inclusive and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.” said Raymond. Raymond background includes 14 years as an entrepreneur and business coach who, in addition to her duties at Startup Tucson, runs her own online company, has raised over $8 million of investment for small businesses, and successfully exited a previous business.

“Keneshia’s experience as an entrepreneur and her leadership within the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund has been truly exceptional,” said CIC’s Executive Director, Danny Knee. “She is forward-thinking with a vision to activate the sidelined economic power of underrepresented entrepreneurs within our community whose businesses have suffered from underinvestment.”

The BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund is an example of character-based lending, an underwriting approach through which a borrower’s personal qualities, community reputation, and other factors beyond credit scores and collateral are given greater emphasis. Its volunteer committee of BIPOC community leaders has complete authority over the loan fund including defining the application process and underwriting criteria to assess loan viability. In the loan product design phase, the committee identified specific obstacles to capital access for BIPOC communities which included distrust of the traditional financial institutions, overly complicated application processes, and banking’s over-reliance on collateral and credit scores to make loan approval determinations. A low-barrier application allows business owners to apply via video or audio as well as in writing.

“One of the largest challenges for entrepreneurs, especially BIPOC entrepreneurs, in our region is access to capital,” said said Liz Pocock, CEO, Startup Tucson. “The trailblazing work of CIC and the BIPOC Loan Fund strengthens our economy, and we couldn’t be prouder to call them a partner and support the future longevity of the Fund and its mission.”

As the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund continues to pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable business landscape, this partnership with Startup Tucson reinforces the collective commitment to driving positive change and advancing economic empowerment in Southern Arizona. On Friday, September 15th, CIC and Startup Tucson will be hosting a 2 year Celebration of the BIPOC Loan Fund Celebration at Hotel McCoy from 5:30pm-7:30pm. Festivities will include acknowledging the programs’ milestones and partnerships, amplifying the talent and hard work of program participants, and connecting within our community.

For more information about the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund and its partnership with Startup Tucson and Growth Partners Arizona, please visit the program website, here.

About CIC: Community Investment Corporation (CIC) is a financial empowerment nonprofit. We give the members of our community, who are shut out of and left behind in our economy, access to the knowledge and financing they need to pursue new opportunities. CIC unlocks the door to prosperity for all members of our community to meaningfully participate in our powerful but imperfect capitalist economic system and reclaim the American Dream. At CIC, WE KNOW YOUR WORTH. The system may not recognize your value, but we do. Learn more about our loan, homeownership, and school bond compliance programs at CICTucson.org.

About Startup Tucson: Startup Tucson is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to transform our region’s economy through entrepreneurship and innovation. Startup Tucson executes this mission by providing education and culture-building programs and events to grow a high-impact entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem. You can find information about the organization and upcoming opportunities to engage at startuptucson.com.

About Growth Partners Arizona: About Growth Partners Arizona Growth Partners Arizona is the largest Black-led Arizona-based CDFI that provides affordable, responsible financial products to local underserved communities. As a trusted intermediary between the public and private sectors, Growth Partner Arizona aims to achieve economic justice through forward thinking, collaborative, and inclusive approaches to capital access in Arizona. We are committed to building a more inclusive economy that works for everyone. For more information visit: growthpartnersaz.org.

$100K investment to help Southern Arizona entrepreneurs of color

Thank you, Growth Partners Arizona for your %100,000 investment in the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund

A $100,000 investment has been made to support at least 10 Southern Arizona small business entrepreneurs who are Black, Indigenous or people of color.

The investment from the Tucson-based Growth Partners Arizona will be available through the Community Investment Corporation’s BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund.

The no-interest microloans of up to $10,000 are awarded under a character-based lending model, in which a borrower’s personal qualities, community reputation and other factors that go beyond credit scores and collateral are given greater emphasis, a news release said.

The loan fund is two years old, and its volunteer committee of community leaders has the decision-making authority for the loan funding, defining the application process and the criteria used.

Obstacles to capital access for communities of color include distrust of traditional financial institutions, overly complicated application processes, and banking’s over-reliance on collateral and credit scores to make loan approval determinations, the committee found.

Instead, a low-barrier application allows business owners to apply via video, audio or in writing. Only after being approved for a loan are entrepreneurs required to provide financial and business documentation, the news release said.

Over the past two years, the committee has approved more than 50 no-interest microloans in Southern Arizona, totaling nearly $400,000 in funding.

“I think some traditional lenders might be skeptical of our underwriting process,” said CIC Executive Director Danny Knee, “but the performance of our loan portfolio shows that we are on to something with our trust-based approach.”

Growth Partners Arizona, a Community Development Financial Institution, is planning to expand the fund’s community-managed approach statewide, the news release said.

“Investing in the fund is not only important to the community but resonates with me personally,” said Growth Partners Arizona CEO Andre Whittington. “I have witnessed family members and friends lose their businesses due to limited or nonexistent funding opportunities. Through this partnership we are providing real solutions and establishing inclusive financial pathways for BIPOC business owners to secure the capital needed to scale their businesses.”

For more information about the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund, visit tucne.ws/1kzm

Read the original article on Tucson.com.

Funds Available for Small Businesses to Go ‘Green’

by Kimber Lanning, Andre Whittington, and Danny Knee

As our country prepares to spend billions of dollars in new funding on environmental efforts, America is sitting on a gold mine in the fight against climate change, and we need to do something about it.

The opportunity lies with small businesses.

Many small-business owners want to be more environmentally friendly — and all are interested in saving money. Implementing simple changes like LED lights to large projects like installing solar panels can make a big difference to both our planet and businesses’ bottom lines.

The size of the opportunity is huge.

In Arizona, nearly 600,000 companies have fewer than 20 employees; nationwide, it’s more than 26 million. That’s 98% of all U.S. firms.

Barriers to Small Businesses Going ‘Green’

But small-business owners are stretched thin.

They often juggle everything from marketing to purchasing to accounting, duties that corporations have whole teams to handle. Adding “Chief Sustainability Officer” to a small-business owner’s “to-do” list can seem daunting.

Another challenge is the capital to carry out “green” projects.

Rarely do small businesses have a few hundred or thousand dollars to spare for sustainability upgrades, even when the investment will save them as much or more money in the long run.

The new environmental tax incentives offered by the Inflation Reduction Act alone may recover the cost of some projects.

And yet, big banks will laugh a small business out the door for seeking a modest loan “just” to conserve water and energy or require burdensome hoops for the business to jump through.

Boot Camp Helps Businesses Create Plan to Save

Thankfully, there is a solution.

Local First Arizona’s Green Business Boot Camp has helped hundreds of local business owners cut their water, energy, waste and transportation usage by 20% or more with simple adjustments, often leading to thousands of dollars in savings.

For example, Green Business Boot Camp graduate Pines Inn & Suites in Cottonwood is installing motion-sensor thermostats to keep air-conditioning costs down when rooms are vacant.

Phoenix restaurant Duck & Decanter is conserving major amounts of water by putting in low-flow toilets and upgraded kitchen equipment.

And Tucson dessert shop Frozen Delight has turned to recyclable packaging.

Photo credit: Kylee Musslewhite with permission from Frozen Delight

Affordable Loans to Finance the ‘Green’ Transition

In addition to education and support from the boot camp, our Green Business Micro-Loans provide the financial runway for small businesses to afford these changes.

With these loans, boot camp graduates in six Arizona counties can get help paying for sustainability improvements at low-interest rates through a short application process.

In Maricopa and Yavapai counties, the newly launched Green Loan Fund, made possible by Growth Partners Arizona and Vitalyst Health Foundation, provides loans to eligible local businesses up to $10,000 at 3% interest, which businesses pay back entirely with savings generated by their sustainability projects, so their cash flow is uninterrupted.

In Pima County, the Green Community Fund, created in partnership with Community Investment Corporation, provides up to $15,000 at 0–5% interest.

And in Graham, Greenlee and Cochise counties, small businesses can receive loans up to $25,000 at 7% interest through Community Investment Corporation for “green” as well as other projects.

More Funding Needed for Small Businesses to Meet Climate Goals

One of the best things about these micro-loans is how easy they are to obtain.

Whereas traditional banks may require years of financial statements, credit scores and collateral to extend credit, these funds rely on “character-based” lending.

A free energy and water audit conducted by Local First plus an explanation of how the money will be used, the anticipated savings and the local business’ support in the community is all that is asked.

Kevin Ticer, owner of Custom Upholstery Services in Safford, said applying was a snap. “It was easy to go through the micro-loan process,” he said. “After a couple of meetings with the loan committee, I was approved and able to invest in the equipment and remodeling that I needed.”

But loan programs like these need more funding to fully power the shifts small businesses must make in the coming years.

If we don’t invest to help local entrepreneurs become more sustainable, it will cost us all eventually.

Recognizing the motherlode that small businesses hold to achieve progress toward climate goals is the first step for our society. Obtaining more funding — whether from government, private foundations or donors — is our next responsibility.

Kimber Lanning is the CEO of Local First Arizona. Andre Whittington is the executive director of Growth Partners Arizona. Danny Knee is the executive director of Community Investment Corporation.