Appalachian Transition in Action

appalachia

The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) partners with local people to build upon the strengths of Kentucky and Central Appalachia, creating economic alternatives and striving to make Appalachian communities better places to live.

 

Central Appalachia is in a moment of economic transition. The extractive industries that have dominated the economy concentrated wealth and political power in the hands of a few. Communities are struggling with the decline of coal jobs. Government services and support are in reduction, and there is little confidence that the political status quo will address the region’s problems. The public sector remains important to development, but needs help identifying the right roles to play in supporting an economic transition.

 

The social impact market is growing rapidly, as consumers look to support social change through their spending and investments. Younger generations are embracing Appalachia’s landscape, culture, and traditions, giving rise to new economic opportunities. These trends are creating more entry points for entrepreneurs and nonprofits interested in pursuing social enterprise as a market-based solution to social needs and problems. Many of these opportunities are clustered within a handful of sectors such as food, energy, health, textiles, small-scale manufacturing, forestry, wood products and tourism.

 

MACED seeks to support this burgeoning sector with the Social Enterprise Support Initiative (SESI). As a nonprofit lender, MACED is a social enterprise itself. They have had a long association working with social enterprises and recently launched a new initiative to deepen this work by identifying social entrepreneurs who are just starting out or existing social enterprises that are poised to grow. They offer training, technical assistance and capital, including new tools and approaches to best suit the unique needs of social enterprises.

 

The two key supports that SESI offers include:

 

  • Access to Innovative Capital:  While there is a significant amount of capital in the region suitable for stronger enterprises, there is a gap between what is available and what social enterprises need. Social enterprises tend to need more capital and more patient capital. As a mission lender, MACED has been charged to take more risk than traditional banks. MACED is currently testing a new innovative loan product that matches a low-interest loan with a successful crowd-funding campaign. This loan uses social capital rather than credit score to gauge the viability and helps build on the market validation provided by the campaign. Other innovative forms of lending to social enterprises include using stacked capital and phased investments.
  • Technical Assistance/Business Advisory Services: Social enterprises have specific technical assistance needs at different stages of development, which are difficult to address through existing resources. MACED contracts with consultants to provide services to small businesses & social enterprises. Services include Quickbooks training, website development, crowd-funding campaign design and strategic planning. MACED works with experts in key sectors to help the social enterprises in Central Appalachia grow and thrive.

 

Although the Initiative is just getting started, it has helped several social enterprises to date. These vary from a food hub to a textile printing company to a media services company.

 

Fruits of Labor 3Fruits of Labor 2

 

One particular social enterprise that they have worked with is Fruits of Labor Café in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Tammy Jordan created Fruits of Labor 15 years ago to combine her interest in agriculture and cooking. In 2011, she added the Seeds of Recovery training program primarily for women who are re-entering the job market after serving time in prison or recovering from addiction. The training focuses on cooking, agriculture and business management. Tammy recently opened a café as a social enterprise which is managed by graduates of the program. MACED provided loan capital for the café expansion and support programming. They also matched her with a mentor to provide support.

 

Tammy is just one of many social enterprises making a difference in Central Appalachia and MACED is proud to partner with her. MACED works to shape a just transition for Appalachia to a new, post-coal economy that is more diverse, sustainable and equitable. They promote an economy that is locally based; community driven; built on regional talent, tradition and assets; and embodies a vision of a bright future.

 

To learn more about MACED, visit their SEA member profile or www.maced.org.

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