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October 26, 2011
CDFIs from Maine and Pennsylvania are 2011 NEXT Awardees
    by Robert Kropp

Coastal Enterprises will expand its Working Partner Initiative, while The Progress Fund will expand and support replication of its Trail Town Program.

The Wachovia Wells Fargo NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance, 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, have been awarded annually to leading community development financial institutions (CDFIs) for the last five years.

Each year, the awards have been accompanied by a statement that funding for them will be continued through 2011. sought out Mark Pinsky, President and CEO of OFN, to learn if funding for the awards program might be extended.

Responding via email, Pinsky wrote, "I'm pleased to say that Wells Fargo has announced another five-year commitment. The Awards will go on from 2012 through 2016."

This year's recipient of a $5.5 million program-related investment and unrestricted grant award is Coastal Enterprises (CEI) of Wiscasset ME. CEI was awarded for its Working Partners initiative. The program uses fee-sharing among CDFIs to expand the deployment of allocations to distressed communities through the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program.

CEI plans to use the award to expand its Working Partners initiative beyond the current eight members.

The Progress Fund of Greenburg PA received a $2.75 million award for its Trail Town Program, which seeks to revitalize trailside communities along the 132-mile Great Allegheny Passage. A regional partnership that supports small businesses involved in outdoor recreation and tourism along the popular 141-mile biking and hiking trail, the Trail Town Program has funded 61 new trail-related businesses leading to the creation of 83 jobs.

The Progress Fund intends to use its award money to expand the program and replicate the strategy elsewhere.

Pinsky of OFN said of this year's awardees, "By sharing their visions for the future of the opportunity finance industry they inspire their peers to develop their own NEXT-level projects. They are also advancing the industry by serving the needs of more low-income, low-wealth, and disadvantaged people and communities in innovative ways."


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