Indigenous Impact Co.
Last week, President Biden announced the Mountain | Plains Regional Native CDFI Coalition is one of 21 winners of the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, the most impactful regional economic development competition in decades. Funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Regional Challenge is awarding approximately $45 million in grants to the Mountain | Plains Regional Native CDFI Coalition to grow the Indigenous finance sector and expand economic opportunity in Native American communities in Montana, South Dakota Wyoming, and North Dakota.
With $45 million in funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Coalition — through an alliance of nine Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) — will provide financial investment to Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs that will drive business development and job creation. The creation of a locally led financing infrastructure aims to reverse decades of historical disinvestment and institutionalized inequities for Native communities. EDA funding will also support a training program, improve data infrastructure, and make other investments that will expand the capacity of the Indigenous financial industry. The Coalition presents a first-of-its kind, cohesive model for Native communities to develop a sustainable private sector while also establishing economic sustainability and resilience.
The Mountain | Plains Regional Native Community Development Financial Institutions Coalition is the only recipient composed entirely of Native nonprofits, and led almost exclusively by women of color (7 of the 9 Coalition members are Native women). Indian Nations Council of Governments in Oklahoma is the other Native award winner, receiving $39 Million. While the lead applicant for the Coalition is Four Bands Community Fund, the Coalition is founded on shared leadership and will together co-lead each of the five component projects supported by this historic funding. The Mountain | Plains Regional Native CDFI Coalition is a group of mission-driven community development loan funds encompassing: Akiptan, Black Hills Community Loan Fund, Montana Native Growth Fund, Wind River Development Fund, NACDC Financial Services, Plenty Doors Community Development Corporation, Native American Development Corporation (NADC), and People’s Partner for Community Development.
“This project gives us hope for the future. Our approach and philosophy is always about our communities. This is unique to Natives and especially Native women leaders. These funds will address systemic barriers and unlock resources for our communities, said Barbara Schmitt, Executive Director of Black Hills Community Loan Fund.
The Coalition member organizations emerged out of grassroots initiatives and are led by community members for community members. All are committed to leading with the values of integrity, humility, respect, and reciprocity; forwarding progressive, sunrise thinking. Such thinking revolves around amplifying their collective strength and networks; unifying their actions; and sustaining generations to come.
“For too long, Native American communities in the region have been left behind. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge provides bold investments to transform these local economies and stand up a stronger, beneficial workforce that places the needs of the community and equity at the forefront,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “The Mountain | Plains Regional Native Community Development Financial Institutions Coalition will expand economic opportunity in Native American communities that will drive business development, job creation and innovation for decades to come.”
“U.S. Economic Development Administration is proud to support the vision of the Four Bands Community Fund and its coalition partners,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “This EDA investment supports a first-of-its kind, cohesive model for Native communities that will pave the path for transformative private investment in Tribal communities most in need.”
The significance of this grant is unprecedented. When less than 4/10 of 1% of private funding supports Native-led institutions, Native communities have consistently had the least access to capital. Importantly, today, the Coalition has the seed capital to address systemic barriers and fortify new systems to ensure their communities thrive economically. Together the Coalition and communities, with partners, can begin to reverse the flow of capital so that Native economies retain economic gains within their communities.
"The Coalition is holding funders accountable in new ways. I see sunshine, when I think about the Coalition — the vision, the light, the guidance that the Coalition is providing, for all of us. Native Community Development Financial Institutions are the truest to the CDFI model as originally intended, in terms of the community connection. This is going to have a huge impact in Native communities, and it's also going to spread across more areas than we can even imagine right now," said Nikki Foster, Program Officer at Northwest Area Foundation.
The Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) is an unprecedented competitive federal grant program that provides each regional coalition with significant investments to tackle a wide variety of projects — including entrepreneurial support, workforce development, infrastructure, and innovation — to drive inclusive economic growth. The Coalition’s projects will strategically place investments into the region’s Indigenous Finance Industry, which will serve as the primary vehicle for driving equitable growth strategies across all layers of Native economies. Coalition members will leverage their knowledge and other assets along with their extended network of partners and additional investments to catalyze economic growth in the region’s Native communities.
The 21 BBBRC awardees were chosen from 60 U.S. Economic Development Administration-designated finalists that each received approximately $500,000 in funding and technical assistance to continue developing their cluster strategies. The funding for each coalition is approximate, with awards to be signed later in September. Those 60 finalists were chosen from a Phase 1 applicant pool of 529 applications.
For more information on the Mountain | Plains Regional Native Community Development Financial Institutions Coalition, please visit https://fourbands.org/mountain-plains-coalition/. For more information about U.S. Economic Development Administration, visit https://www.eda.gov/ARPA/.
About Native Community Development Finance Institutions
The U.S. Treasury’s CDFI Fund defines CDFIs–which can take the form of loan funds, credit unions, banks, or depository institution holding companies–as mission-driven financial institutions that take a market-based approach to supporting economically-disadvantaged communities. A Native CDFI provides at least 50% of its services to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, or Native Hawaiians. Unlike traditional financial institutions, Native CDFIs deliver effective financing solutions of customized blends of capital and development services, which include a range of services designed to build individual skills and connect borrowers to additional resources. The first Native CDFI was established in 1987; today 69 Native CDFIs are certified by the U.S. Treasury and many more are emerging across the country. These unique organizations, along with a diverse array of partners— including tribes, state and federal government agencies, policymakers, higher education institutions, foundations, and other non-profit organizations–comprise the extended Indigenous Finance Industry network. Leading a movement to fill capital gaps resulting from neglect by conventional institutions, Native CDFIs serve as powerful vehicles for economic growth in Native communities. With innovative strategies that drive equitable economic models, Native CDFIs are responsible for dramatic increases in business development, job creation, income generation, and asset building in Native communities.
About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.