May 5, 2016

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— Wells Fargo today issued a $1.6 million award to the Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF), a green business lender that supports locally-owned enterprises in Central Appalachia and the Southeast. As a result, the Fund will expand access to lending and business advisory services for African American farmers and small business owners, primarily in Eastern North Carolina.  

NCIF, an affiliate of the national nonprofit Conservation Fund, is one of 15 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) selected to receive funds for the first round of the Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital (DCC) program—a three-year, $75 million program aimed at serving diverse small businesses.

The Wells Fargo funding helps disadvantaged farmers and business owners who lack access to financial resources diversify their enterprises and build greater financial stability, resulting in stronger local communities and the responsible use of natural resources. 

“NCIF recognizes that the growth and success of diverse businesses focused on triple bottom line results is good for communities, our economy and the environment,” said Marten Jenkins, President and CEO of NCIF. “We're thrilled to be recognized by and partner with Wells Fargo to grow the next generation of African American and minority entrepreneurs across North Carolina.”  

NCIF provides lending and advisory services to farmers and businesses in underserved communities. NCIF’s Accounting Assistance for Disadvantaged Farmers program connects farmers of color and limited resource farmers in Eastern North Carolina to qualified CPAs to establish good recordkeeping and build financial stability. The North Carolina Grain Bin Project has helped 20 independent, low-wealth farmers increase their income from grain sales by investing in on-farm storage capacity. In total, NCIF has provided more than 14,100 hours of technical assistance to more than 770 small businesses across Central Appalachia and the Southeast. 

James Joyner of Faison, North Carolina, is a disabled African-American U.S. Army veteran who transformed his family farm from a labor of love to a profitable enterprise with NCIF’s help. Fulfilling a promise to his parents to keep the farm in the family following their deaths, Joyner returned home and decided to raise sheep — a new venture for the farm, and for Joyner. NCIF helped him develop financial projections for his business and connected him with an innovative North Carolina company that enables him to graze his herd on solar farms and helps market his lamb. NCIF'S loan helped Joyner expand his herd, upgrade pastures and fencing, and build a lambing shed. Today, Joyner’s farm is profitable, and he sells his grass-fed, antibiotic-free lamb to a well-known national organic and natural foods grocery chain.

“NCIF didn’t just loan me money,” said Joyner. “They took extra time, made an extra effort to help me with different aspects of my business, which let me know the success of my business is just as important to them as it is to me.”

Wells Fargo will distribute $50 million in debt (lending) capital and $25 million in grant capital to CDFIs to lend to diverse business owners, support initiatives (such as technical assistance, marketing, outreach) that increase access to capital, and help more diverse business owners get the coaching and education resources they may need. It’s DCC program also has a social capital component, focused on activities to build effective support networks and social infrastructure among CDFIs for the purpose of increasing lending to diverse small businesses.

“Wells Fargo is proud to support NCIF and the work they are doing,” said Jack Clayton, Piedmont East Regional President for Wells Fargo. “Investing in our communities is one of the most important things we can do as a company and directly connects with our vision and values. At Wells Fargo, we believe that we’re responsible for promoting the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life for everyone in our communities. If they prosper, so do we.”

Wells Fargo has previously supported NCIF’s work in North Carolina with grants and a low-interest loan.  In 2014, Wells Fargo and The Conservation Fund also partnered to support native communities in Alaska. Wells Fargo donated 143 acres of culturally and historically significant land adjacent to the Native Village of Eklutna to the Fund for permanent preservation. The donation was part of Wells Fargo’s Environmental Solutions for Communities grant program.

About Natural Capital Investment Fund
Natural Capital Investment Fund supports entrepreneurs who are creating jobs and triple-bottom-line businesses in underserved communities in Central Appalachia and the Southeast. We are a business loan fund with expertise in farm-to-table, alternative energy, forest products and eco-tourism. Founded in 2001, NCIF is a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) affiliated with The Conservation Fund.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land.

News Release Contacts
Rick Larson | Natural Capital Investment Fund | 919-949-4724 |  
Dagny Leonard | The Conservation Fund | 256-225-2306 |