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August 03, 2011
Finalists for 2011 Wachovia Wells Fargo NEXT Awards are Announced
    by Robert Kropp

The annual awards are given to community development financial institutions that demonstrate innovative solutions for economically distressed communities and underserved people in the US.

Finalists for the fifth Wachovia Wells Fargo NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance were announced today. The annual awards, which are financed through a $16.75 million grant by the Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation and a $25 million loan to the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, are scheduled to be awarded through 2011.

The NEXT Awards are provided to leading community development financial institutions (CDFIs), which "are market-based, private sector financial intermediaries that create opportunities for low-wealth, low-income, and other disadvantaged individuals and institutions and spark growth in distressed markets across the nation," according to a press release. OFN is a network of more than 180 CDFIs.

Two finalists, each with assets of more than $50 million, will contend for a $5.5 million program-related investment and unrestricted grant award. Coastal Enterprises (CEI) of Wiscasset ME was chosen for its strategy to expand nationally its Working Partners initiative, which uses fee-sharing among CDFIs to deploy allocations to distressed communities. Currently, the initiative has eight members.

NCB Capital Impact of Arlington VA was chosen as a finalist for its Green House Project, a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Green House Project provides technical assistance and pre-development loans to organizations seeking to implement its innovative model for residential long-term care.

Two finalists were also chosen for a $2.75 million program-related investment and unrestricted grant award provided to a CDFI with $10-50 million in assets. Opportunity Fund of San Jose CA was chosen for its microenterprise lending in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Progress Fund of Greenburg PA was selected for its Trail Town Program, which seeks to revitalize trailside communities along the 132-mile Great Allegheny Passage.

In addition to the above awards, four CDFIs will receive $25,000 unrestricted grant awards.

Debra Schwartz, director of program-related investments for the MacArthur Foundation, stated, "Mission-driven organizations like those competing for this year's awards have extended a financial lifeline to low-income people all across the country. They help fill the gaps left when traditional banks falter and pull back. And they deliver real solutions to the many new problems that have arisen during these difficult and turbulent times."


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