Highland EDA hosts regional finance guru
Monterey, Va. –
At its January meeting the Highland Economic Development Authority hosted Marten Jenkins, President and CEO of the Natural Capital Investment Fund, which is a national, non-profit environmental organization that does land and water conservation work focusing on what are called working landscapes. Mr. Jenkins explains his business’s activities to EDA members.
“That includes farmland, forest land, work with waterways, and the other part of our focus is community economic development,” said Mr. Jenkins. “I manage the Natural Capital Investment Fund. The Natural Capital Investment Fund is a certified community development financial institution. That really means we are a small business loan program and we make loans anywhere from one thousand dollars anywhere up to around three hundred thousand dollars for natural resource based businesses. We started in 1999 with the support of the Appalachian Regional Commission, in West Virginia. Over the years we have expanded our service area to include parts of Appalachian Ohio, Kentucky, all of West Virginia, Appalachian Virginia and southside Virginia,” he said.
Mr. Jenkin’s company also operates in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. He goes on to discuss the Natural Capital Investment Fund’s business plan.
“Our mission is to work with traditional financial institutions, banks, other lenders, and non-traditional lenders to provide capital, to start up early stage, growth businesses that can’t get all their financing through traditional financial institutions,” said Mr. Jenkins. “Because of our conservation background, our focus has been on the forest products industry, agriculture, the tourism industry, renewable energy, recycling, homeopathic natural medicine producers, and really anything in between those sectors,” he said.
Mr. Jenkins continues with more information on their recent work in West Virginia.
“More recently in West Virginia, we’ve been working with more traditional businesses on energy efficiency because, if you are not energy efficient, you are losing money on the bottom line, and one of the sectors we’ve been doing a lot of work with recently is small, independent, little grocery stores,” said Mr. Jenkins. “Grocery stores have very narrow profit margins. Energy can be a huge component of some of their operating costs and those savings go right to the bottom line. We’ve also discovered that local grocery stores tend to buy more and support local foods. So we are meeting our mission plus helping to stabilize in these cases critical institutions. We have a project in Upshur County. It’s in Rock Cave, West Virginia. They were purchasing and selling other West Virginia value-added products. But they also hosted the local farmers market. So they thought it’s not competition, it’s good business’ for a community resource,” he said.
The Highland Center is looking for potential sources of financial support for local businesses looking for startup or expansion funds. The Natural Capital Investment Fund may be able to help with that in the future.