Natural Capital Investment Fund Receives $250,000 From The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation

February 4, 2010

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Shepherdstown, WV – The Natural Capital Investment Fund announced today that it has received a $250,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to launch an Operating Assistance (OA) Fund, a unique endeavor that will provide intensive technical assistance to start-up and early-stage businesses with growth potential in West Virginia counties designated by the Appalachian Regional Commission as distressed and at-risk. These funds will ensure that the borrowers’ critical non-financial needs are addressed, thus enabling them to perform under any debt or equity obligations to NCIF and other participating lenders.

“I want to thank the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation for joining in this unique program that will help small businesses in our rural counties grow,” said Governor Joe Manchin. “Small businesses are the heart of our state’s economy and this grant helps give them the tools they need to survive in a competitive global marketplace that starts right in our own communities.”

Among other services, the OA Fund will help businesses with: development of marketing materials and employee training manuals, market assessments, pro forma financials development, product development, engineering services, energy audits and design and implementation of cost accounting systems.

“The goal of the OA Fund is to create living wage jobs and increase and profitability of small businesses serving rural communities in West Virginia by giving them non-financial operational resources and support needed for long-term viability,” said Marten Jenkins, president and CEO of the Natural Capital Investment Fund. “With this grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, we are able to get this innovative program off the ground, and we hope this pilot initiative will result in a larger program with sustained support.”

“These funds provide a source for these lenders to access the necessary technical assistance a business may need to be viable and successful,” said Mary Hunt-Lieving, senior program officer for the Benedum Foundation. “This supports a win for all the stakeholders: the lender is more secure in the investment, the business has a greater potential for success and the State of West Virginia grows its economy.”

The Operating Assistance Fund is a collaborative effort between four West Virginia-based financial intermediaries that share a common mission and purpose of providing debt and equity financing to develop, promote and expand West Virginia’s economy by making capital available to eligible businesses, thus stimulating economic growth and providing or retaining jobs within the State. Partners in the effort include: Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF), a subsidiary of The Conservation Fund; Four-County Economic Development Authority (4-C EDA); Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council (MOVRC); and West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust Board (WVJIT).

“The Benedum Foundation’s funding of this innovative technical assistance program will allow 4-C and its partner organizations to assist our new and existing businesses in addressing their non-financial opportunities and challenges, said Kathy Calhoun, business support liaison and loan fund manager for 4-C EDA. “Access to these important support services will provide our businesses with the tools necessary to grow and remain competitive in an ever changing marketplace.”

“The Benedum Foundation has made a very positive and forward thinking decision in the award of these funds,” said Jim Mylott, executive director of MOVRC. “The funds will enable the MOVRC to provide in-depth assistance to both start-up and existing small businesses in our at-risk and distressed counties. While such assistance is vital at the start-up stage, our experience indicates that similar assistance is needed during the first few years as well. The funding from Benedum will allow us to establish the operational infrastructure to achieve our goal of creating business opportunities in our counties.”

“This program will facilitate the delivery of critical non-financial services to the entrepreneurial and small business community in West Virginia,” said Andy Zulauf, executive director of WVJIT. “The broad array of services provided under this program is essential in developing a comprehensive business and strategic operating plan for companies seeking debt andor equity financing. We are excited to be part of this initiative with NCIF, 4-C Economic Development Agency, MOVRC as well as the program sponsor, The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.”

For more information about the Operating Assistance Fund, please contact Marten Jenkins at mjenkins@conservationfund.org or (304) 876-2815, ext 207.


About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.