ATNI-EDC hosted the ‘Native Entrepreneur Lending Mini-Convention in early April 2018
with support from a grant from the Umpqua Bank Foundation. The event was open to all non-bank institutions that provide loan products to tribal people in the Pacific Northwest, and was touted as an opportunity for financial institutions that provide financial products to Native entrepreneurs in the ATNI region to gather, connect,
and discuss shared issues. The goals of the event were to: ensure that all native entrepreneurs in the ATNI region have access to appropriate financial products; strengthen necessary lending institutions; and create relationships with local financial institutions.
The idea was born out of need. ATNI-EDC runs very lean, and struggles with running the loan program, creating a regional economic development strategy, and running an organization with a single staff person. Community lending is a tough industry to thrive in. To be self-sustaining, a loan fund needs to have revolving loan capital between $2 million and $5 million. ATNI-EDC’s portfolio is at $750 thousand. The intent of the Native Entrepreneur Lending Mini-Convention was to learn about the needs of similar lending institutions and determine if there was a way to collectively fill gaps that we each experience. The event was well-attended. It attracted all or nearly all the native-run CDFI’s in the ATNI Region, including Northwest Native Development Fund (Coulee Dam, WA), Taala Fund (Ocean Shores, WA), Lummi CDFI (Bellingham, WA), Chehalis Tribal Loan Fund (Oakville, WA), and Niimiipuu Community Development Fund (Lapwai, ID). We also had interest from a couple of the tribal loan funds and tribal credit enterprises. We were also joined by members of the philanthropy and legal sectors. Many of the CDFI’s that were present at the Mini- Convention run lean like ATNI-EDC, with only one or two staff members to uphold the programs. We also learned that there is a need for lending institutions to collaborate and pool resources to support capital development,
technical assistance, organizational capacity, standardized policies and procedures, UCC template development, staff-training, consultant referrals, and marketing/ telling our story in a compelling way. There is plenty of need: we need to access it and ensure that we have sufficient capital to meet it. All present felt that we should form a group to
accomplish these priorities. Hence, The Northwest Native Lending Network was formed.
We are the best at what we do because we know our communities. We aren’t beholden to external stakeholders. We view each other as a resource, and not as competition.
We are VALUES- based. Our priority is to build entrepreneurs and businesses in the communities that we live in. We serve a population that doesn’t have access to
traditional loan products. The population we serve is considered ‘unreachable.’ And yet we have earned their trust and we are succeeding. We are greater when we pool our knowledge and resources, and The Northwest Native Lending Network will strengthen our ability to better serve our communities.