LAFAYETTE, La. - News 15's Jeff Horchak spoke with members of the community about a federal loan that is aimed at boosting the economic growth on the north side of Lafayette.
The goal is to also get blighted buildings back into circulation and to give underserved business a chance to thrive.
Samuel Pierre, owner of Maid to Clean Vacuum Services and Repairs, says his business has been in north Lafayette since 1973 and he plans to continue running his business there.
Kevin Blanchard says it could take a year for the loans taken from the CDFI Fund to get set up.
The LPTFA was awarded a $125,000 technical assistance grant by the CDFI Fund. The grant is designed to provide expert help to organizations improve or create a Community Development Financial Institution, or CDFI.
For more than 40 years, the LPTFA has provided mortgages and down-payment assistance to first-time homebuyers in the Lafayette market. Establishing a CDFI will allow the LPTFA to expand on this community lending activity in exciting ways, LPTFA Executive Director Kevin Blanchard said.
The technical assistance grant will help pay for professional consulting services and other activities that will help establish the CDFI business plan over the next months, Blanchard said.
CDFIs across the country engage in a variety of lending activities geared to driving investment and economic development in disadvantaged communities.
The LPTFA is particularly interested in growing a community development loan fund that would help make small business loans and drive economic development opportunities in North Lafayette. Currently, the only CDFIs based in Lafayette are credit unions — credit unions make up a majority of CDFIs in the country.
“We are not looking to compete with the credit unions in this market,” Blanchard said. “Rather, we are looking to fill in the gaps that exist in providing loans, investments, and financing services to folks and businesses that are not always banked by traditional banks.”
CDFIs are also able to access competitively awarded Capital Magnet Fund grants to support affordable housing development. The LPTFA is also pursuing certification as a Community Development Entity, which would allow the LPTFA to serve as a conduit for New Market Tax Credits, Blanchard said.
The LPTFA is partnering with the United Way of Acadiana and Lafayette Consolidated Government to build a capital investment plan to fight the food desert in North Lafayette — where the USDA has pointed out that most North Lafayette low income census tracts have limited access to fresh produce.
The creation of a CDFI and the associated loan fund can help support local entrepreneurs who are trying to provide better grocery options on the Northside, Blanchard said.
“There are a lot of exciting opportunities out there, especially in North Lafayette,” Blanchard said. “We have a lot of work to do to get geared up, but we are reaching out to the community to help us as we make these key decisions.”
The LPTFA has engaged the services of a nationally known consultant to help put together a business plan for its CDFI activities and ultimately pursue CDFI certification, Blanchard said.