The U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities (the Endowment) today announced a $25,000 grant to help timber harvesters impacted by the recent economic downturn in South Georgia. With this investment, the Endowment seeks to support critical infrastructure for the forest products industry, support loggers certified by the Georgia Master Timber Harvester Program, and strengthen small businesses in forest-reliant communities.
“Among the Endowment’s earliest efforts were considerations of how to help the nation’s critically-important logging industry,” said Carlton Owen, president of the Endowment. “This effort, while a small step, is a local start on what must become a systemic approach to reinventing this cadre of nearly 10,000 small businesses that are foundational to healthy working forests and a robust forest products industry,”
The Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF) will receive the funding, using it to launch the “Sustainable Logger Initiative,” a pilot program designed to provide flexible financing and technical assistance to loggers and related forest-products business in South Georgia. Grant funds will support program implantation and technical assistance. NCIF will offer loans to loggers purchasing or upgrading equipment or with working capital needs for their business.
NCIF is working with Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a Maine-based community development financial institution with a depth of forest industry experience to capitalize the revolving loan fund. CEI made a $1 million investment in NCIF to capitalize the loan fund and NCIF will leverage another $1 million through the program. By leveraging the Endowment’s grant funds with $2 million in additional loans and private capital, NCIF plans to amplify the Endowment’s investment in the region.
“We’re grateful to the Endowment for its commitment to the forest products industry and all the people who rely on it for jobs and community development,” remarked Marten Jenkins, President of the Natural Capital Investment Fund. Keith Bisson, SVP for Program Management and Development at CEI echoed that sentiment, adding “We are honored to be part of this initiative and to support timber harvesters, one of the most critical links in the forest products value chain.”
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. is a Maine-based 501 (c)(3) private, non-profit Community Development Corporation (CDC) and Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). CEI’s mission is to help create economically and environmentally healthy communities in which all people, especially those with low incomes, can reach their full potential. Based in Wiscasset, Maine, CEI ranks among the nation’s leading rural CDCs/CDFIs. With offices statewide, in partnership with other CDCs/CDFIs, CEI also serves communities throughout rural New England, upstate New York, and throughout Rural America with its New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program.
The Natural Capital Investment Fund, a West Virginia-based CDFI with offices in North Carolina, has an established partnership through CEI’s Working Partners Initiative (WPI), which was developed under CEI Capital Management LLC (CCML), CEI’s wholly-owned NMTC subsidiary. The WPI extends the benefits of the NMTC and brings additional CEI capacity to rural communities that would otherwise not have access to these much-needed resources. The WPI’s goal is to support CDFIs and other community-based organizations in rural regions where NMTC transactions take place.
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) is a not-for-profit public charity working collaboratively with partners in the public and private sectors to advance systemic, transformative, and sustainable change for the health and vitality of the nation’s working forests and forest-reliant communities – www.usendowment.org