Creating Flexible and Affordable Financing Opportunities for Businesses in Fort Worth

July 7, 2022

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FUSE Corps

The City of Fort Worth is looking to scale the number of private financial institutions that are dedicated to delivering responsible, affordable lending to support small business owners and affordable housing development. By 2028, the city seeks to increase this supply of flexible, affordable, and patient financing through community development financial institutions (CDFIs). To support this goal, Fort Worth will partner with FUSE Corps to build a permanent, sustainable CDFI friendly system in the city.

This fellowship project begins on July 25, 2022, and ends on July 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of July 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on August 1, 2022.

PROJECT CONTEXT

It’s been just over a year since pharmaceutical companies launched vaccines in the fight against Covid-19, ushering in hope for the end of the pandemic, lockdowns, and social distancing from friends and loved ones. With this promise, the economy began to rally, consumers broadened their spending, and business growth and activity increased. However, small businesses and entrepreneurs, who comprise the heart of the American economy, continue to face challenges arising from the pandemic. This includes being unable to receive financial assistance due to a lack of financial readiness/literacy and access to capital. This is a unique challenge for small businesses and entrepreneurs of color. These households have lower pre-existing levels of wealth and savings to put towards a business. At the same time, banks and other creditors are less likely to approve loans for Black or Hispanic small-business owners than white business owners. Without upfront capital to invest in their businesses, entrepreneurs of color continue to struggle to run or pivot their operations to meet the unprecedented businesses challenges arising from the pandemic.

The City of Fort Worth was recently ranked as the nation’s ninth-best large city to start a business, ranking high for its overall business environment and access to resources. However, Fort Worth was noted as falling short in business costs – with unequal access to capital as a significant obstacle to launching and sustaining a business in the city. To address this challenge, the city is looking to scale its supply of available financing through expanding community development financial institutions (CDFIs). CDFIs are private financial institutions that are 100% dedicated to delivering responsible, affordable lending to support small business owners, affordable housing developers, non-profits, consumers, and commercial real estate in historically under-served communities. By 2028, the city seeks to increase its CDFI spending from $39 per person to the US average of $235 per person, gaining 125-$250M in new CDFI financing for businesses and entrepreneurs.

The City of Fort Worth will partner with FUSE Corps to build a permanent, sustainable CDFI friendly system in the city. The FUSE Executive Fellow will collaborate with CDFI Friendly America to utilize their national expertise and success in Bloomington/South Bend, IN, and work to understand where there are financing gaps in the city that CDFIs can fill, how the city can best work with CDFIs, and how to attract more CDFIs to the city by making it easier for them to identify the opportunities they can finance. The Executive Fellow will build the capacity of CDFI Friendly Fort Worth, nurturing a community driven ecosystem that expands flexible, affordable, and patient financing to entrepreneurs, businesses, and developers. As a result, Fort Worth will be more vibrant, economically stronger, and more resilient. 

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed Executive Fellowship project. This summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the Executive Fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the Executive Fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Executive Fellow and the host agency

Starting in July 2022, it is proposed that the FUSE Executive Fellow will work to quickly build working relationships with a wide range of critical stakeholders. This will include identifying and conducting outreach to local financial institutions in the city (banks, lending institutions, credit unions, CDFIs), community leaders, community-based organizations, local business leaders, chambers of commerce, and city officials. The Executive Fellow will convene small focus groups of these stakeholders, collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative information. This information should clarify access gaps in existing lines of capital, the rates of minority and women-owned businesses accessing traditional forms of capital, the financial literacy of entrepreneurs and developers in various neighborhoods, and the perceived potential benefits/roles of CDFIs in Fort Worth. 

The Executive Fellow will utilize these relationships to build the capacity of CDFI Friendly Fort Worth. This will include working closely with CDFI Friendly America and the Steering Committee to design an organizational structure that allows for equitable participation and leadership of the organization by the community – hiring and forming a Board of Directors and administrative staff that is reflective of the community. The Executive Fellow will also use these conversations to build relationships across traditional and non-traditional lenders, informing their understanding of the varying projects and types of capital the organization should prepare to support. 

Building off of the success of a recently completed in-person conference, the Executive Fellow will own a portfolio of deals and ensure CDFIs can easily find and finance opportunities in the city. The Executive Fellow will follow a portfolio of partnerships and potential investments closely over the entirety of the fellowship, driving multiple lending deals from initiation to close. This will require ensuring the entrepreneurs and developers are successful in acquiring capital, technical assistance is provided where necessary, repayment is in process, and the organizations are preparing them to report back to the financial institutions on the utilization of the capital. 

The Executive Fellow will also support in processing the $128M and growing in loan inquiries to CDFI Friendly Fort Worth, operationalize a sustainable system for matching businesses and development projects with investments. This will include developing a comprehensive and easily digestible toolkit for community use that outlines critical financial literacy principles, investment application requirements for various financial institutions, and the processes for transiting from non-traditional financial institutions (such as CDFIs) to traditional financial institutions (banks) for sourcing capital. The Executive Fellow will develop a platform that captures eligible businesses and development projects and notifies financial institutions of high priority and applicable investment opportunities. This platform should also reach CDFIs outside of Fort Worth, attracting additional funders to the city. Based on the success of initial conference, the Executive Fellow may also plan additional convenings to continue to build these partnerships and foster a network of institutions that addresses existing capital access gaps. By April 2023, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following deliverables: 

  • Build robust relationships and convene internal and external stakeholders – Demonstrate cross-cultural agility and successfully engage with all relevant stakeholders; develop working relationships with all relevant departments in Fort Worth, community-based organizations, community leaders, local business leaders and owners, chambers of commerce, and financial institutions; convene stakeholders and tailor these conversations to ensure the entire Fort Worth community comes together, learns, and understands how CDFI financing can benefit under-resourced entrepreneurs or potential developments
  • Formalize CDFI Friendly Fort Worth – Work in concrete with the Steering Committee to hire and form a Board of Directors and administrative staff that is reflective of the community; develop feedback loops between the community, city, and local financial institutions to build the organizations capacity; address on-going challenges utilizing this new leadership structure
  • Lead a portfolio of deals – Drive multiple lending deals from initiation to close, ensuring businesses are equipped to complete the technical requirements of receiving the investment, on-track for repayment, and that the financial institution meet their CRA requirements; support in processing and addressing on-going loan inquiries
  • Foster a network for community driven access to capital – Develop ways to provide financial literacy and educate to the community consistently; form a toolkit for accessing capital and utilizing CDFIs; build out a platform for capturing eligible businesses and development projects and notifying financial institutions of high priority opportunities (ex. project is in a neighborhood that has been traditionally underinvested or is a high community priority) or those that are generally applicable to that institution; prepare a multi-year schedule of convenings

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Project Supervisor – Christina Brooks, Chief Equity Officer, Department of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Executive Sponsor – Fernando Costa, Assistant City Manager, City Manager’s Office
  • Robert Sturns, Director, Department of Economic Development

QUALIFICATIONS

  • At least 15 years of professional experience, having a deep understanding of the capital access issues affecting Black and Brown communities
  • Some familiarity with the regulations of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) beneficial
  • Ability to quickly jump into work already in progress, soaking in the knowledge of others
  • Experience with community engagement, intentional about building trust with community members to fostering fruitful partnerships
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills, working genuinely and authentically across varying groups
  • A self-starter and entrepreneurial leader who is results-oriented, driving action-oriented solutions/recommendations
  • Must be able to work non-traditional hours with schedule flexibility
  • Experience working in politically charged environments
  • Proven success in cultivating partnerships, relationship and coalition building, and fostering collaborative environments
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Flexibility, adaptability, persistence, humility, inclusivity, and sensitivity to cultural differences
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations
  • Ability to sustain progress within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity

FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position

FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.