Virginia Community Capital (VCC)’s Seventh Annual Luncheon reflected the foundation of a strong community—lively networking, timely topics for discussion, and learning from each other. Held December 13 at Richmond’s Jefferson Hotel, the event was billed as “Connecting the Dots . . . Creating Thriving Communities” and throughout the day thriving towns were showcased.
In the morning, VCC presented a Leadership Forum where new and emerging thoughts and trends are introduced here in Virginia to begin dialogues and start conversations among community leaders. Attendees from community and economic development agencies joined with others from the philanthropic, small business, finance, and entrepreneurial sectors to hear a presentation by Amy Cortese, award-winning journalist and editor discussing her recent work: Locavesting—The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It. Cortese advocates for place-based economic development or locavesting, where building local financial ecosystems can conceivably provide the essential ingredient for long-term economic recovery in America. “Without strong local economies, we cannot have a healthy national economy,” and Cortese provides compelling evidence for her approach:
If just 1 one percent of the $30 trillion in American long-term investments was dedicated to the Main Street or local economy, that would translate to $300 billion for local economies.
Small businesses, collectively 27.5 million companies, employ half of all private sector employees.
Ryan Ammann, BB&T; Amy Cortese, Author & Guest Speaker; and Jane Henderson, President & CEO of Virginia Community Capital
“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, generating 80% of jobs and half of the GDP,” explained Cortese. To foster these vital enterprises, she recommends a collaborative effort with contributions from numerous innovative tools including crowdfunding, local stock exchanges, foundations, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) like VCC. This year’s Leadership Form was sponsored by BB&T.
The Annual Luncheon built on Cortese’s theme of locavesting and included Virginia-based examples of how local efforts are revitalizing Main Streets throughout our Commonwealth. VCC President and CEO Jane Henderson praised the work of the VCC community at large from board members to fellow nonprofits, philanthropic foundations and business owners, many in the audience of 200. Henderson elaborated on the power of small businesses with the following facts:
There are over 613,000 micro enterprises (businesses with up to five employees) in the Commonwealth, accounting for almost 15% of all employment in Virginia.
And, in 15 of our counties, these small businesses account for more than 25% of employment.
“Small businesses create wealth,” Henderson continued. “More than double the wealth on non-small business owners in general. A successful small business is an asset in addition to employment opportunity. It can be sold …or transferred to children. It pays local taxes . . . and creates an economic leverage in local purchasing power.”
A video highlighting five thriving communities (Culpeper, Petersburg, Onancock, Staunton, and Abingdon) across the Commonwealth further illustrated the importance of small businesses to local economic growth:
Small businesses are now enjoying the benefits of a collective revitalization, resulting from “a group effort with town, county officials, and entrepreneurs” according to Justin McFarland, from Culpeper Renaissance. Once a place where trees grew out of empty storefronts, Culpeper’s Main Street now claims zero vacancies with many new enterprises joining established businesses to generate a strong local economy.
In Staunton, Katie McCaskey from George Bowers Grocery explains how overcoming “Generica” is a both mission and benefit of Main Street revitalization: “This is a place where there are independent businesses that are interesting, creative, and different than any other place. Meghan Williamson of the Staunton Creative Community Fund echoes this sentiment when she says: “This is a scale where we can build something beautiful and human that is based on community.
A healthy Main Street in Abingdon combines arts with business as Deborah Wagner from People, Inc. describes: “We have a tremendous number of artisans and musicians that prefer to be in this area because it does feel like this is where you’re supposed to be.” Abingdon’s arts institutions support small business development through tourism and by fostering quality-of-life enrichment sought by creative, engaged entrepreneurs.
View the entire video below:
The luncheon further included honors for two distinguished VCC partners. Sandy Fitz-Hugh, board member, is retiring this December. Board Chairman Dixon Hanna read a special resolution of the board to Fitz-Hugh who was a gubernatorial appointee in 2005 and continued to serve this organization under three governors. Randy Arno, Southside Director at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and member of VCC’s Community Advocate Council, accepted special VCC recognition for continued service and his Lifetime Achievement Award from the 2012 Rural Summit.
Impact Highlights from VCC’s Annual Luncheon:
Loans originating over $138 million
Leveraged total $277 million
Total project impact $415 million
Affordable housing: 4,008 units with 1,106 new and 2,902 rehabbed
Jobs created: 1,231 with 911 new and 320 retained
Real estate development: 928,101 square feet of new and rehabbed commercial and 3,789,345 square feet of new and rehabbed housing
Savings: Total deposits at $41.5 million
Advisory services: over 4,700 hours of assistance
Our Luncheon Sponsors (click image to view full size)
About Virginia Community Capital:
With offices in Christiansburg and Richmond, Virginia Community Capital (VCC) is dedicated to the prospect of building wealth for all through our lending, savings, and advisory services. As a community development financial institution (CDFI), our mission is to offer innovative, flexible financial products designed to support housing and community development ventures, increase jobs, and encourage sustainable communities. In partnership with our for-profit bank, Community Capital Bank of Virginia (CCB), the non-profit VCC offers loan capital broader and more flexible than bank lending in low- to moderate-income communities in underserved geographies and markets. Learn more at vacommunitycapital.org.