- Posted on: April 28th, 2020
(Lancaster, PA): Two regional community development financial institutions (“CDFIs”) serving Philadelphia and the surrounding region have announced their intent to merge later this year. Effective July 1, 2020, Community First Fund (“Community First”) and FINANTA will be joining forces as one, larger entity that will allow them to have a greater impact and drive change in the communities they both serve.
When considering the merger, both organizations focused on their shared mission and strong cultural fit. Community First Fund and FINANTA have worked as peer organizations providing capital access to people who are overlooked by mainstream financial providers in the region. The people they serve are hardworking entrepreneurs – predominately first- and second-generation Latino, African and Asian immigrants, and African Americans who need financial counseling and business loans. The majority of their borrowers live and work in some of the most economically challenged communities in the nation, facing high poverty and unemployment rates.
Moving forward, the combined organization will continue to offer all of their financing products and technical assistance programs in a 20-county region in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. To ensure continuity in the market, Community First Fund will continue to operate and expand the FINANTA Microlending Program and all other products offered by both CDFIs. All existing FINANTA and Community First employees will retain their positions and all existing offices will remain open. Once fully integrated, Community First anticipates $101 million in total assets and $129 million in assets by 2024.
The recommendation for the merger of Community First and FINANTA was reviewed at a joint board meeting on April 3, 2020 including Community First Fund’s David Schankweiler, Chair, and Daniel Betancourt, President and CEO, plus FINANTA’s Chair, Allen C. Lamboy, and Luis Mora, President. Subsequently, the board of directors for both entities approved, effective July 1, 2020, that two organizations will operate under the name of Community First Fund with Daniel Betancourt as its President and CEO. Timing of the integration allows for a smooth transition, as Luis Mora, founder and president of FINANTA, will be retiring on June 30 after 24 years of leading that organization.
“It has been a pleasure to have worked with Dan and both board of directors, especially Lenin Agudo, Jonathan Encarnacion, Marilyn Hedge and Lawrence McComie to bring this integration to fruition. I know that together, we are stronger and more capable to facilitate broader technical assistance services and financial products to the communities we love and strive to better serve, and where our resources are most needed,” said Mora.
Betancourt and Mora began sharing their CDFIs’ unique synergies and plans for future growth and expansion over three years ago. Their passions for economic equality and advocacy for low-income minorities and immigrants are evident throughout the history of their organizations.
In 2018, Community First and FINANTA solidified their collaboration through the newly formed Kensington Lending Partnership. As the shared worked evolved, it became evident that by deepening the collaboration, they could significantly strengthen the services and loan products they offer in the market, and substantially expand the number of people served yearly.
“Working with FINANTA as a partner in Philadelphia has made it clear we can achieve much more in the market when we join forces,” said Daniel Betancourt, president and CEO of Community First Fund. “Together we are stronger, and our combined resources can only increase the number of businesses and nonprofits we can serve in the future.”
Both Community First and FINANTA offer lending products that meet business needs for flexible financing solutions. The array of loan products is complementary since there is significant synergy with little overlap. The combined loan product and technical assistance offerings will allow for a continuum of business support from early to expanding stage.
During the current COVID-19 crisis, both organizations worked together to close nearly 300 SBA Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling $15 million, funneling much-needed dollars to small business owners who could not access the program locally.
“As we watch the economic challenges stemming from COVID-19 unfold, we are deeply committed to helping businesses that historically have been unable to access sufficient capital – small businesses owned by low-income people, people of color and women,” states Daniel Betancourt, president and CEO of Community First Fund.
As Community First Fund, the integrated organizations will continue to drive their shared mission and deliver services to the newly expanded 20 county region. Future plans may include supporting other low-income communities with similar demographics and needs.
About Community First Fund
Community First Fund was founded in 1992, with a mission to create sustainable prosperity for low wealth communities and individuals, especially Latino, African Americans and women, by aligning capital, knowledge and advocacy to advance business ownership, housing, and community development in its market. Over the past 28 years, it has provided over $290 million in financing to more than 1,850 borrowers; over 80% of loans benefitted low and very-low income communities and borrowers, and nearly 60% are made to Latinos and African Americans. Its market includes fifteen counties covering eastern Pennsylvania. It has 40 employees in Allentown, Harrisburg, Lancaster (headquarters), Philadelphia, Reading, and York.
FINANTA was founded in 1996 as a nonprofit lending institution facilitating access to capital and consultation services to entrepreneurs, first-time homebuyers, and consumers in the Delaware Valley region. FINANTA creates opportunity for economic self-sufficiency by eliminating the obstacles keeping the financially underserved constituencies from accessing the capital and credit building support they need to advance. In the past 24 years, FINANTA has provided over $67 million in loans to more than 2,800 borrowers, with 92% of loans extended to minorities and 95% to lower income people. Its market includes eleven counties covering Delaware, the Greater Philadelphia area, and Southern Jersey. Headquartered in Philadelphia’s lower Kensington, it has 18 employees.download this release here
- Posted on: March 16th, 2020
As you are well aware, our communities, country and the world are facing a challenging time. I want to share with you how Community First Fund is responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that is impacting our region. We have made some changes in our office operations in an effort to keep our staff, partners and clients safe while maintaining business operations.
Beginning Monday, March 16th, and until further notice, Community First Fund will transition to a remote work arrangement for most of our staff. We have the technology and tools in place that enable our employees to work outside of the office. As a result, we have the full capability to keep business operations running smoothly.
At this time we have cancelled all Community First Fund events scheduled through March 31st. Additionally, to maintain safe social distancing, we will be using video and audio conferencing technology to conduct meetings. Please do not visit any of our offices without contacting us in advance.
Community First Fund business operations will continue as usual during our normal workweek hours. Our entire staff is available to you via email or phone, as normal. Rest assured, every member of our team is focused on providing quality service to our clients and partners.
We will continue to monitor this evolving situation and inform you of any additional changes we implement to insure the safety of our employees and the communities we serve. We will also share any updates through our website at communtyfirstfund.org and social media outlets (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.)
Thank you for your understanding during this challenging time. Should you have any questions or need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact any Community First Fund team member.
President and Chief Executive Officer
- Posted on: February 25th, 2020
Community First Fund Awarded $3 Million Grant from Wells Fargo Foundation to Spark Small Business Growth and Job Creation
Philadelphia, PA, February 26, 2020 – To accelerate the growth of diverse small businesses and job creation in Philadelphia, the Wells Fargo Foundation is investing $3 million with Community First Fund. As part of its Diverse Community Capital program, Wells Fargo will fund the expansion of Community First Fund’s investment in North Philadelphia’s diverse owned small businesses community to help sustain more than 350 local jobs and bolster local neighborhoods.
“Empowering small businesses is a direct and impactful way to stimulate job growth,” said Diverse Community Capital Program Manager Connie Smith. “Community First Fund is an expert at identifying and coaching diverse small business owners who are ready to learn how to take their business to the next level. Collaborating locally helps us strengthen the small business ecosystem, which in turn, builds job opportunities and a deeper sense of community.”
“With this partnership, we will be able to reach diverse entrepreneurs in the city of Philadelphia, “ said Daniel Betancourt, President & CEO of Community First Fund. “We expect to provide financing and technical assistance to nearly 100 small business owners, who often struggle to obtain traditional financing. These loans will improve the lives of their families and the neighborhoods they call home and will also create thriving jobs that are critical to building healthy and vibrant communities.”
Community First Fund, which has been lending throughout the Greater Pennsylvania market since 1992 recently expanded its work to the Kensington neighborhood of north Philadelphia. Through a now $13.4 million loan fund the organization will not only provide small business loans to African American and Latino run businesses but also provide technical assistance and business counseling services.
Wells Fargo is bringing additional small business resources to Philadelphia through a collaboration with the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders. Through a historic $10 million grant to NALCAB, The Wells Fargo Foundation is supporting growth-oriented lending to minority-owned businesses nationwide through a network of Latino-led nonprofit business lenders. The new Acceso Loan Fund is designed to help diverse entrepreneurs scale to a greater size expanding their revenue, impact on the economy and ability to provide jobs. A local Philadelphia CDFI has been selected to be an equal share partner in the fund and can refer qualified small businesses for financing and technical assistance starting this month.
Started in 2015, the Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital program is a five-year, $175 million commitment to empower diverse small businesses in collaboration with Opportunity Finance Network. To date, the program has delivered more than 322,000 hours of technical assistance and $781 million in financing to minority-owned small businesses, enabling more than 103,000 jobs across the U.S.
About Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through 7,400 locations, more than 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 32 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 260,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 29 on Fortune’s2019 rankings of America’s largest corporations. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.
Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com | Twitter: @WellsFargo.
Crystal Dundas, 215-437-2006
Ellen Svrcek, 717-869-5433download this release here
- Posted on: August 28th, 2019
Community First Fund, Greater Berks Development Fund, and Others Announce First Phase for $8.2M Property Redevelopment Project
Reading, PA (August 28, 2019) – This morning Daniel Betancourt, President and CEO of Community First Fund, Edward Swoyer, President of GRCA’s Greater Berks Development Fund, Christian Leinbach, Chairman of the Berks County Commissioners, Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, Reading City Councilwoman, District 6, Sonya Smith, Associate State Director of Programs & Policy for the Kutztown University Small Business Development Center, and local business owner Leopoldo Sanchez, formally announced the launch of the first phase of an $8.2 million redevelopment project located at North 4th and Elm Streets in downtown Reading.
Sanchez, with financing from a small consortium of lenders led by Community First Fund, will convert a vacant 40,000 sq. ft. property into a two-story commercial space with three different businesses. Located in a low-income neighborhood in downtown Reading, this project will create 120 full-time jobs and 30 part-time jobs for residents. The property includes nine affordable-rate apartments, which will remain as part of the project.
The street level of the property will feature a 17,000 sq. ft. Super Natural & Fresh Produce grocery store and café. The second floor will house two different businesses: a 19,000 sq. ft. warehouse to supply local bodegas and grocery stores with fresh food and a 4,000 sq. ft. manufacturing space to produce corn flour tortillas for local stores and restaurants. An existing 10,000 sq. ft. space will be demolished to create a parking garage and loading dock. The project is estimated to be completed in 2022.
“Providing access to a grocery store and healthy foods is a critical issue in underserved communities,” says Dan Betancourt, President and CEO of Community First Fund. “This project will help make this neighborhood a better and healthier place for low income individuals to live and prosper. And the creation of 150 quality jobs will have a major impact on many families in Reading. We are proud to be assisting Leo Sanchez with this project.”
Community First Fund and the Greater Berks Development Fund, an affiliate of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, have been working with Sanchez on the development of the project since March 2018. Community First Fund made the initial loan of $1.2 million to start Phase 1, which encompasses pre-development work such as demolition, parking renovations, and roof repairs. The Greater Berks Development Fund has 50% participation in the loan at $600,000. Additionally, the City of Reading has pledged $1.5 million to help finance equipment through the Community Development Section 108 loan program. Additional financing still needs to be secured for Phase 2, which is when the large-scale construction and renovations will take place.
“We are extremely happy to be able to partner with Community First Fund to assist Leopoldo Sanchez’s continued growth and significant investment in Reading,” says Edward Swoyer, President of the Greater Berks Development Fund. “He’s a perfect example of the entrepreneur we are looking to support.”
Sanchez is experienced in the grocery industry, as he currently owns and operates two Super Natural & Fresh Produce stores; one on N. 12thStreet in Reading, and another in Scranton. These full service grocery stores offer a large variety of ethnic and cultural produce and fresh food for the predominately-Hispanic communities where they are located.
“This project will not only provide good jobs and healthy food for the community and its residents, but will also support local businesses,” says Sanchez. “Most bodegas and restaurants here in Reading have to get produce and tortillas from Philadelphia or New York. Having a local wholesaler will make it much easier for these businesses to get products faster and better serve their community.”
Sanchez worked closely with the Kutztown University Small Business Development Center on this project, which helped him with business planning and projections. Local realtor and paid consultant Michael Rivera will be serving as project manager. Monarch Enterprise, headed by Principal Aaron Camara, will be managing construction of the project.
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- Posted on: March 25th, 2019
Community First Fund Launches $5 Million Neighborhood Initiative with Kensington Lending Partnership
Philadelphia, PA (March 25, 2019) – Community First Fund, in conjunction with the newly formed Kensington Lending Partnership, formally launched a significant funding source focused on small business and mixed-use real estate development, housing improvements, and affordable homeownership for the Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington. The Partnership, comprised of four Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), includes Community First Fund, FINANTA, Impact Services Corp’s Impact Loan Fund, and Philadelphia LISC.
In 2018, the Partners worked together to participate in the JPMorgan Chase Foundation’s annual Partnerships for Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods (PRO Neighborhoods) CDFI Collaborative competition, aimed at promoting inclusive growth through collaboration. As a result, JPMorgan Chase awarded a $5 million grant to the Partnership to revitalize the Kensington Avenue community and commercial corridor in Philadelphia.
“This Partnership brings a combined 135 years of expertise in community economic development and an incredible amount of resources to where they are needed the most,” said Luis Mora, President of FINANTA, “and it is also a unique targeted approach to community revitalization rarely encountered in the Philadelphia area.”
Over the next three years, the Partnership will use these funds to provide support to existing and attract new small businesses through capital and coaching, finance the redevelopment of mixed-use properties and support pathways to homeownership and affordable rental housing options. Jointly, they will deploy the $5 million to finance the lending activities, assessment, evaluation, program administration and staff.
“We’re thrilled to have formed this partnership to expand our area of impact into Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood,” said Daniel Betancourt, President & CEO, and Community First Fund. “Working together, this collaborative effort will advance small business ownership, economic development, and community revitalization.”
The Partners will work together in the following roles:
- Community First Fund, led by President and CEO Daniel Betancourt, will finance businesses and mixed-use development, and leverage its own resources for larger economic development projects in participation with the Partners and others.
- FINANTA, led by President Luis Mora, will increase first-time homebuyer opportunities, and leverage its existing small business and consumer loan pools and expertise in credit and homeownership counseling, and entrepreneurial training.
- Impact Loan Fund, led by President and CEO Casey O’Donnell, will lead community development efforts by training and financing local residents to become small real estate developers and acquire/renovate vacant buildings, empower residents and create leadership opportunities to address local trauma.
- Philadelphia LISC, led by Executive Director Andrew Frishkoff, will manage the implementation of the community development strategy by providing technical assistance to the Partnership, sharing best practices, leveraging local and national resources, and ensuring delivery on outcomes.
The Partners look forward to making a measurable impact in the Kensington community over the coming years, contributing to the vision of the Heart of Kensington Neighborhood Plan. The vision is for Kensington to be a safe, healthy and clean community where neighbors feel connected to one another, take shared responsibility for the neighborhood, and feel empowered to make change in their environment and envision a positive future for themselves and their children. We welcome other organizations to join in this effort as well.
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- Posted on: September 24th, 2018
Lancaster, PA (September 24, 2018) – Today, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation unveiled over $14.5 million to the winners of its fifth annual Partnerships for Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods (PRO Neighborhoods) CDFI Collaborative competition, aimed at promoting inclusive growth through collaboration. Community First Fund, a community development financial institution (CDFI) headquartered in Lancaster, is a joint member of a winning umbrella group selected by JPMorgan Chase.
Community First Fund joined forces with other CDFIs headquartered in Philadelphia; LISC (Local Initiative Support Coalition), FINANTA (Financing and Technical Advice) and Impact Loan Fund; to form the Kensington del Corazón Collaborative to participate in this annual competition. The organizations in this Collaborative all provide affordable financing to promote economic opportunities in underserved communities.
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- Posted on: September 21st, 2018
Lancaster, PA (September 20, 2018) – Community First Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) headquartered in Lancaster, has been awarded $700,000 through the United States Department of Treasury Community Development Financial Institutions – Financial Assistance program to spur economic and community development in distressed and low-income communities. The award will be used to support Community First Fund’s lending efforts throughout central and eastern Pennsylvania.
On September 19th, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) awarded $202.2 million to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) across the nation and Puerto Rico. The awards will enable CDFIs to increase lending and investment activity in low-income and economically distressed communities. Community First Fund was one of 302 organizations selected nationwide from a highly competitive grant application process, and one of only 11 recipient organizations in Pennsylvania.
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- Posted on: June 1st, 2018
Community First Fund, PeoplesBank and Hotel Lancaster Announce Financing Deal for Property Redevelopment Project
Lancaster, PA (June 1, 2018) – This morning Daniel Betancourt, President and CEO of Community First Fund, The Honorable Danene Sorace, Mayor of Lancaster, Eric Warfel, Senior Vice President and Director of Commercial Lending for PeoplesBank, Lyle Holser, Vice President of Economic Development Company of Lancaster County (EDC), and local real estate developer John Meeder, formally announced the completion of a multi-faceted financing deal for a project in the heart of Lancaster.
Lancaster developers John Meeder and Sam Wilsker, along with a group of investors, recently closed on a $23 million financing package to convert The Hotel Lancaster, formerly the Brunswick Hotel, into a Holiday Inn Resort. The remodeled hotel will accommodate 86 new guest rooms, along with a full-service restaurant and banquet facilities. Once completed, the facility will create 66 new jobs and retain 36 jobs for a total of 102 employment opportunities in downtown Lancaster.
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- Posted on: April 20th, 2018
York, PA (April 20, 2018) – Community First Fund, a non-profit community development financial institution headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, announces the appointment of Natividad Rivera as Business Development Associate for York and Adams counties. In this position, Rivera will be working to build connections in the York market, educate the community on the organization’s product and service offerings and meet with potential loan applicants. He will be working out of Community First Fund’s York office located at 7 East Market Street.
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- Posted on: April 13th, 2018
Community First Fund Announces $5 Million New Markets Tax Credit Allocation for Salvation Army Build Project
Harrisburg, PA (April 13, 2018) – Community First Fund is pleased to formally announce a substantial New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) allocation to support a build project for one of the Harrisburg area’s major nonprofit organizations.
The Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region will receive a $5 million New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) allocation from Community First Fund for the construction of a new, multi-use service and worship center which will be located at 506 South 29th Street in Harrisburg. The new expanded location will allow the Army to provide vital human services to individuals and families living in each organization’s target area, which includes Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry Counties. The services it provides includes food and basic needs assistance, self-sufficiency mentoring, and programs for children and youth.
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