Beck and Sandoval Receive Certificate in Community Development Finance - Center for Rural Affairs REAP Loan Specialists Attend Community Development Finance Course

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Elisha Smith,, Phone: (402) 687-2103 ext. 1007
or Dena Beck,, Phone: (308) 528-0060

LYONS, NE - Loan specialists, Dena Beck and Juan Sandoval, with the Center for Rural Affairs Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) recently received a Certificate in Community Development Finance.

Both attended a Community Development Finance course sponsored by the Opportunity Finance Network-OFN and the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. In the course, they worked with other mission-driven community development finance institutions across the nation and other key stakeholders in the industry to better understand the history of the industry, business models used in the industry, best practices, and innovative ways to bring services and financing to underserved populations across the U.S. During the session there was also a group of international microfinance practitioners meeting and the two groups shared information.
Over 10,000 rural Nebraska entrepreneurs and small business owners have benefitted from the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) since inception of the program in 1990. The project is committed to strengthening rural communities through self-employment and small business development and is the largest statewide rural program in the nation. REAP has placed over $10 million in loans and leveraged over $17 million in additional funds from other sources.
According to Dena Beck, REAP Loan Specialist with the Center for Rural Affairs, “Due to the overwhelming need for services in rural Nebraska, the Center for Rural Affairs’ REAP program started looking for better ways to build the scale and efficiency of the program. That is the reason that the Center for Rural Affairs has worked for the last several years pursuing a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) certification for the organization. A CDFI is a specialized financial institution dedicated to serving low-income individuals and communities that lack access to financial services from mainstream financial institutions. CDFIs offer loans for small and micro-sized businesses and provide services such as business planning and one-on-one counseling.”
In late 2013 the United States Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institution Fund officially certified the Rural Investment Corporation (RIC), a subsidiary of the Center for Rural Affairs, as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).
“As a new Community Development Financial Institute we’re building capacity to meet growing capital needs of small businesses, and exploring needs in the farm sector and in neighboring states,” commented Beck.
According OFN representative Beth Lipson, OFN and Carsey School of Public Policy piloted the course in 2014, offered it another two times in 2015, and plan to offer it again twice next year.  Approximately 45 industry practitioners attended each course.
“It was nice to meet with similar CDFIs as well as ones that have a different target market than REAP/RIC such as housing. We all learned from each other as well as the instructors and guest speakers,” said Beck. “It’s a well-thought out program and I recommend my colleagues of all levels and interests to take advantage of the training and networking.”
Beck attended the course most recently in June while Sandoval attended in February.
“For the past 25 years, REAP has been the primary program working with micro-entrepreneurs in rural Nebraska and the only organization that has a Women’s Business Center and Hispanic Business Center,” commented Sandoval, Center for Rural Affairs Hispanic Business Center Director. “We want to be the BEST so REAP has been proactive in sending staff to trainings such as the Community Development Finance course sponsored by the Opportunity Finance Network-OFN and the Carsey School of Public Policy in order to learn about other CDFIs' work and implement new programs.”