In this interview, we had the chance to speak to Chris McHenry from CCEDC. Below is a piece of the interview highlighting some of CCEDC’s small business stories and the passion they have for supporting their community and really getting to know their borrowers.
Peter Truog: Could you tell me about some of the borrowers in your portfolio who stand out or that you're excited about?
Chris McHenry: Certainly! One of our partner counties, Berks County, is home to the City of Reading. Beyond the city, there's a small town named Oley that might not be widely known. This town epitomizes rural Pennsylvania, far removed from the bustling areas like Philly, Pittsburgh, or Scranton. We assisted a couple in Oley who acquired an old, closed-down bar and restaurant that had been a part of the community for decades. The goal was to revive it into a restaurant and community center, replicating its original purpose. The couple required funds for refurbishment, and we were able to provide the over half-million dollars they needed. This project encompasses the spirit of revitalization, beginning with restaurants that attract foot traffic, bolstering local shops, and fostering a ripple effect. Their endeavor is set to rejuvenate the town and create an atmosphere for further economic growth.
Peter Truog: It'll be quite the celebration once the renovations are complete, and you can join in for a toast to their success.
Chris McHenry: Absolutely, it's going to be a fantastic moment. Now, let me share another story that I really love. This one comes from Berks County through the Greater Berks Development Fund. It all began when a young lady in her early 30s reached out to us after discovering our website in May 2021. She had faced significant challenges, raising a child as a single parent while pursuing her education. She managed to complete her associate's degree and later earned a bachelor's degree from Temple University. She found work in retirement and nursing home facilities, gaining expertise in cleaning and disinfection during the pandemic. Recognizing the demand for cleaning services, especially with people reluctant to return to work, she landed substantial contracts, including one with Amazon. Her determination and commitment to showing up consistently paved her way. Over the course of two years and a month from our initial conversation, we worked with her and, even when we couldn't find a match for her required funding, the Greater Berks Development Fund stepped in to cover the gap. This individual's progress has been remarkable. She expanded her Amazon contract, and secured cleaning contracts for district courts and county housing departments. The most inspiring part is her dedication. She built her company without capital, all while maintaining her promise to provide steady employment to her future employees. Her growth story exemplifies the impact of our approach.
Peter Truog: I love to hear it! Stories like these are always inspiring to me. What are you excited about in terms of what’s next for CCEDC as an organization?
Chris McHenry: I'm excited about progressing further with our goals. We've received only a third of the allocated funds so far, and I can't wait to disburse it effectively. Presently, our focus is on research and grant writing. There are foundations, particularly within banks, that are keen on investing in community redevelopment. As we adhere to Community Reinvestment Act criteria, it's about securing grants and expanding the program. We have a $20 million influx over the next five to six years for eight counties. To serve borrowers like those we've assisted, we need additional resources and funding, and that's where the foundations play a vital role. Additionally, some loans are beginning to cycle back, especially those that were bridge loans. This recycling enables us to keep the funds circulating and further amplify our impact. My excitement stems from finding innovative ways to stretch the capital's reach, and extending support to more individuals with promising ideas and unwavering dedication. Empowering hardworking people ultimately leads to their success, and that's our driving force. We're ready to take on these opportunities; we just need the financial backing to make it happen.
Peter Truog: It's great hearing stories like yours. I think it helps people understand the journey of getting funding and your focus on expediting and enhancing fund disbursement for a seamless experience. Secondly, it sounds like it's about finding avenues to secure more funding, whether through faster returns or new sources.
Chris McHenry: Absolutely, this passion comes from my belief in the good we're doing. I see the impact firsthand, not just in the work we do but also in the borrowers' lives. It's a rewarding experience. I believe it's an opportunity to reshape conventional thinking. Banks often dismiss applicants with scores under 660, but perhaps our success can pave the way for a different perspective. Maybe they'll become more open to projections and reassess the need for excessive collateral. For instance, a $40,000 loan doesn't merit foreclosure when the costs outweigh the potential returns. It's about questioning the logic behind concerns regarding collateral, especially for relatively small loans.
We hope you enjoyed this section of our interview with CCEDC!