D.C. community investment fund hopes to double loan pool in next couple years

D.C. community investment fund hopes to double loan pool in next couple years

The Washington Area Community Investment Fund Inc.’s loan fund could double — from $3 million to $6 million on its balance sheet — in the next two or three years, a potential boost to the pool of capital available to small businesses in the region.

So says outgoing Executive Director Tim Flanagan, who thinks the loan fund could eventually reach $9 million. Flanagan announced June 25 that he will step down as executive director in early 2016. He has been with the nonprofit since February 2006 and became executive director in 2010.

WACIF has formed a search committee to look for Flanagan’s replacement, according to board Chairman Ian Joseph. He thinks Flanagan’s successor will have an “untapped opportunity” to grow the WACIF brand name and expand its donor base after a long period of being “inward focused.”

Joseph credited Flanagan with stabilizing WACIF’s financial situation after the organization was hit hard by the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. Flanagan hired additional staff and infused the young members with confidence that the future would be better than the past.

Flanagan, 34, told me he wants to spend more time with his family, including his 2-year-old daughter. After some time off, Flanagan thinks he will return to entrepreneurship — he started and owned a record label, called Second Place Records, after college, an experience that impacted his work for WACIF.

“The narrative is the same,” he said. “No matter how great your idea is, it’s really [about] the money, and seeing that gave me an appreciation for the folks who were coming to WACIF, and they needed financing.”

WACIF is a nonprofit community development lender founded in 1986 to provide financing to small businesses as well as community organizations. Its customers primarily have low to moderate incomes and can’t get traditional financing, such as bank loans.

Community Forklift, which is based in Edmonston, received a $200,000 startup loan from WACIF to fund equipment purchases and working capital. The company is a nonprofit, low-cost provider of building materials, collected from donations throughout the D.C. area. WACIF’s loan led to Community Forklift salvaging more than $8 million worth of building material that otherwise would have gone to landfills.

Marla Bilonick, executive director of the Latino Economic Development Center, another local community development investment fund, said organizations such as WACIF and LEDC are needed to “give a chance to someone who doesn’t have a track record and to give a chance to all sorts of underserved populations.”

As for WACIF doubling its loan fund, Joseph said that “would be an unbelievable achievement.”

“That is a goal that I would not want to commit to as the board chair but one that I think is possible, if we find the right person,” Joseph added. “I think it’s a good goal to have.”

This article appeared in the Washington Business Journal, July 2, 2015

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