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Community Scope 2018 Issue 2

2018, Issue 2

Maryland CDFI Roundtable Case Study

A case study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

I. CDFI Partnership Genesis and Structure

What is now the Maryland CDFI Roundtable (Roundtable) began in 2012 as the Baltimore CDFI Roundtable, a strategic initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond Baltimore Branch. Prior to the genesis of the Baltimore CDFI Roundtable, the city of Baltimore had a relatively weak CDFI infrastructure with a few larger-scale national CDFIs and numerous smaller-scale local CDFIs working independently in their target markets. According to research and interviews that OFN conducted from 2010 to 2011 to help inform capacity-building efforts, there was an opportunity to more effectively communicate CDFI expertise to philanthropic leaders, local policymakers and potential borrowers in Baltimore. Additionally, there existed opportunities to formalize sporadic interactions between CDFIs and the Maryland Department of Housing and Economic Development and to increase connectivity among CDFI leadership in the city. From this foundational research, AECF and OFN developed a capacity-building model based on three tenets:

1. Promote CDFI collaboration by arranging regular meetings.
2. Convene stakeholders from the philanthropic, nonprofit and public sectors to raise awareness about CDFIs.
3. Support CDFIs through targeted technical assistance.

The first informal meeting of Baltimore CDFIs took place in 2014. At the time of this first meeting, OFN reports drawn for the meeting indicate that there were 16 CDFIs operating in Baltimore and representatives from 10 CDFIs attended the inaugural meeting. The group’s early conversations centered on two main questions:

1. How can CDFIs in Baltimore best raise capital?
2. How can CDFIs in Baltimore best communicate the value of investing in CDFIs to traditional financial institutions and government entities?

This initial meeting led to the realization that many of the participating CDFIs were active in the affordable housing space, which motivated the group’s organizers to communicate with the Baltimore Housing Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner about potential investment projects for participating CDFIs.

The Baltimore CDFI Roundtable met on a quarterly basis from 2012 to 2016. During this time, at least three additional CDFIs entered the Baltimore market and began attending the meetings. After 2016, AECF and OFN refocused on different initiatives, but recognizing the value of the Roundtable, the Richmond Fed continued to convene the group on a biannual basis as the broader Maryland CDFI Roundtable.

New partners continue to come to the table to connect with the group’s expertise, including the Greater Baltimore Committee, the Community Development Network of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University 21st Century Cities Initiative. In addition to the group’s early focus on affordable housing, small business access to capital is also a focus of the Roundtable. This increased focus on small business lending has been driven both by participating CDFIs and by ongoing research into the limited capital available for small business development in the Baltimore region.1 At this point in time, the group does not have any dedicated staff or formal structure.

II. Goals and Achievements

Although the Maryland CDFI Roundtable does not currently have explicit strategic goals, the group has continuously been driven by a desire to more effectively catalyze community development capital in Baltimore and in Maryland more generally. This driving objective led to the development of several tangential projects and products as participating CDFIs and other associated partners — including traditional financial institutions, technical service provides, developers, nonprofit organizations and local government entities — organically identified needs and developed solutions within the relationship-building of the Roundtable.

From 2012 to 2016, select member CDFIs partnered to co-finance three projects in the city of Baltimore, and OFN reported that the cumulative impact of these projects was 420,000 square feet of newly developed retail, commercial and residential space in Baltimore, the creation of more than 600 permanent jobs and the creation of 300 temporary construction jobs.2

More recently, the Roundtable helped provide a catalyzing environment for Baltimore Business Lending (BBL), a subsidiary of Baltimore Community Lending that is also supported by OFN and the Calvert Foundation.3 BBL seeks to help fill a gap in lending to businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenues, particularly startup firms.

The Roundtable does not have additional strategic goals at this time, although Richmond Fed staff and the leadership of participating CDFIs continue to look for opportunities to leverage the expertise of the Roundtable to help inform the city of Baltimore’s community development work. The Roundtable has also engaged in discussions around a more formalized structure and dedicated resources for the partnership, but at this time is not taking additional action on those discussions.

III. Financing and Nonlending Activities

As noted above, Roundtable members have engaged in joint lending ventures together on an ad hoc basis in the past, although current collaboration on both lending and nonlending activities is limited. Roundtable members interviewed for this case study noted that the siloed and oftentimes competitive history of Baltimore’s CDFI industry creates tensions that endure today. While the Roundtable serves as a place to grow trust and increase strategic collaboration, that process will  take time. At this point in time, Roundtable members noted that their capital acquisition and deployment processes remain separate and are not impacted by Roundtable activities. However, members registered frustration at the limited activity of large traditional financial institutions in Baltimore and noted that the Roundtable may have more influence if high-level financial institution management is invited to the table to facilitate conversations about increased traditional financial institution investment in Baltimore’s CDFIs.

IV. Impact and Assessment

Although Roundtable member institutions independently track their portfolio and impact, there is not currently any effort to jointly measure or communicate the activity of participating CDFIs. Roundtable members noted that this is an area that may be beneficial to focus on, particularly if Roundtable members hope to work more closely with large traditional financial institutions on a community development strategy in Baltimore.

V. Challenges, Opportunities and Leading Practices

The origin of the Baltimore CDFI Roundtable was marked by active involvement and tangible support from OFN and AECF, which helped lead to co-financed projects and some increased awareness of the community development finance industry among key partner organizations in Baltimore. However, in recent years the group has expanded to include CDFIs across Maryland and the District of Columbia as CDFIs  in the region have expressed interest in joining the partnership. Simultaneously, external resource support has lessened and the group has faced the challenges that come with limited resources, influence and trust.

The group made some strides in creating a more tightly networked CDFI ecosystem in Baltimore and the surrounding region, but Roundtable participants noted a persistent need for informal trust-building and more formalized systems of strategic cooperation, such as loan sharing and referral systems. Interviewees also expressed a desire to think more holistically and critically about who sits at the table when the group comes together — in particular, members felt that increased involvement from traditional financial institutions may allow for a transformation to more strategic community development investment in Baltimore and for the development of systems that would allow CDFI customers to more systematically “graduate” to traditional financial institutions. Overall, the foundation of the Maryland CDFI Roundtable has allowed for some progress to be made — particularly in the city of Baltimore — but members of the group acknowledge that continued networking, trust- building, strategic communication and development of deployment systems are necessary to fully serve the needs of Maryland’s low- and moderate-income communities.

A note about our endnotes


Notes on endnotes for the print edition

Please note that the endnotes on this case study are numbered differently on this page than they are in the print edition. The print edition, which is available for download, collects all case studies under one issue for Community Scope and follows a sequential numbering for the entire publication. As we feature each case study on its own web page, we keep its numbering unique to that page. We hope this is not inconvenient and is clear to follow.

We are always open to suggestions and welcome your feedback.


 
1

See e.g. Johns Hopkins 21st Centuries Cities Initiative, September 2017, “Financing Baltimore’s Growth: Measuring Small Companies’ Access to Capital."

2

The three co-financed projects are the Howard Park Grocery Store, Centre Theatre and Remington Row. For more information about the financing of these development projects, please see Opportunity Finance Network. (September 2017). Baltimore, Maryland  CDFI Roundtable.

3

Baltimore Business Lending’s website is baltimorebusinesslending.org.

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