As a nonprofit driven by building business as a force for good, we know that capital is a component of building not just wealth, but also the social, environmental, and economic well-being that we and our partners pursue.
One source for capital is Ecotrust CDE. In 2005, we formed Ecotrust CDE to support the innovation we were seeing in the region. Although its creation is an unusual step for a nonprofit organization, we saw the need for a full range of capital—public, private, and philanthropic—to accomplish large impact projects.
“We also want to enable growth for businesses that generate economic value, such as jobs; community revitalization; and ecological restoration.”
A Community Development Entity (CDE) is an entity designated by the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund to assist with public-private investments in low-income communities. We, through Ecotrust CDE, pushed this definition further: we enable growth for businesses that generate economic value, such as jobs; community revitalization; and ecological restoration.
Since its establishment, Ecotrust CDE, in partnership with private businesses and Tribal governments, has issued $271.5 million in New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) to support 30 projects. Ecotrust CDE prioritizes working with Black, Indigenous, and people of color-controlled and -owned entities, including tribal organizations. We recognize that these partnerships are important to shift capital and power. Additionally, Ecotrust CDE’s work includes rural areas, where economic and community needs are great, as are the possibilities for environmental restoration and progression of working lands. And, Ecotrust CDE supports our other mission-aligned work. Fees earned from Ecotrust CDE not only go toward sustaining itself, but they also fund our non-profit programs and other mission-related investments.
So what does that look like in practice? Here are a few of our current projects that exemplify the triple-bottom-line benefits that can be achieved through NMTC investments.
American Samoa Power Authority
In 2018, the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) sought NMTC financing to provide capital for the replacement of asbestos cement and high-density polyethylene pipes, installation of well connections, and other drinking water system improvements in Tutuila, American Samoa.
Cay-uma-wa (Head Start)
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) operates preschool and K-12 education programs for Native American children and youth. In 2018, through NMTC financing, the CTUIR built a new facility in Pendleton, Ore. to house all of their education programs, including Nixyaawii Community School, a charter high school of the Pendleton School District.
Fort Rock Restoration
Located in central Oregon, Fort Rock Forest has been intensively managed in the last two decades, including by two entities in bankruptcy, leaving a legacy of overharvesting and underinvestment. EFMI purchased the property and has started a restoration process to enhance forest health, create jobs, improve habitat for mule deer and other species, develop the property for recreational use, and enhance its access, use, and future acquisition by the Klamath Tribes.
Fry Foods was a food-processing facility in Ontario, Ore., where the unemployment rate is higher than the state average and one in four people live below the federal poverty line. Fry Foods was a key customer for mid-size agriculture in the region and one of the largest local employers. The facility closure in 2012 caused significant impact to the region, with the loss of 240 jobs.
In 2015, Ecotrust CDE worked alongside partners to reopen Fry Foods. Reopening the facility enabled the creation of 134 construction jobs and resulted in important upgrades. Today, the facility has added 108 full-time permanent jobs and growing. Employees receive health benefits, paid time off, and access to job training programs, classes in English as a second language and Microsoft Suite, as well as training in welding work. Reinstating Fry Foods, whose products go out across the country, catalyzes an economic boost to the local area.
We have seen over and over the economic, social, and environmental revitalization that can occur when communities and businesses can access the capital and advisory support they need to put ideas into action. Ecotrust CDE’s work continues to identify partners and projects with this potential and move capital into their hands. We are proud to be part of the work that our partners have achieved and look forward to the future possibilities that NMTC can enable.
Top photo: Lumber stacked high at Ochoco Lumber Company, a project which has since concluded its seven-year partnership with Ecotrust CDE. Photo courtesy of EFM.