Face Of This Place

A Fresh Start: Putting My Values To Action, by Erika McGilley  

In many respects banking is a tradition-laden battleground where dream-inspired plans frequently perish—sometimes justifiably, sometimes not. As my clients' advocate, I did my best to strike an appropriate and amicable balance between their needs and the bank’s demands, but it wasn't always easy. I pushed boundaries, dismayed to see opportunities for people needlessly suffocated by inflexible and opaque requirements.

Even as banking policy strictures were revamped with the intent of creating a more transparent, accountable and customer-centric industry, the net effect was that the new regulations were cumbersome and inefficient— dramatically reducing the ability to meet critical community needs. I experienced this loss firsthand and it strengthened my growing conviction that my work wasn’t just frustrating, it might be futile. I needed to find a place where I could completely invest my skills, experience and energy. My search brought me to the Natural Capital Investment Fund, an affiliate of The Conservation Fund.

I joined the NCIF team as its Western North Carolina Business Lender this past September, and quickly learned that their goals align perfectly with my own: to create meaningful and sustainable work through progressive economic development. NCIF was founded in 2001 as a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) to provide flexible financing to small and emerging natural resource-based businesses in rural, economically distressed communities in Central Appalachia and the Southeast. Our capital and technical assistance is benefiting people and economies every day—from the small independent farmers who faced logistical challenges when delivering their locally grown food to market in North Carolina, to the loggers who needed equipment upgrades to perform their jobs safely and optimally in West Virginia. To date, NCIF has helped 140 businesses create or retain over 1,300 jobs by providing loan capital and the technical support they need to make their businesses succeed. 

It's amazing to see how funding from NCIF helps take businesses to the next level, and how those successes inspire other entrepreneurs to action—generating countless community improvements. Today, as a business lender for NCIF, I am putting my values into action….every day.

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Natural Capital Investment Fund
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