Letters to the Editor

Loan program helped us help our community

Marcus Scarborough
Marcus Scarborough

When a Save-A-Lot grocery store in Aiken closed in the fall, it cut off nearby access to fresh foods that help keep families healthy, so my business partners and I set out to reopen it. Its recent reopening was about more than groceries. It’s about opportunity, entrepreneurship and jobs, about connecting our communities and neighbors to resources they need to thrive. And it’s about how community development financial institutions strengthen South Carolina and communities nationwide.

We had formed our company, Honor Capital, after returning from service overseas, because we wanted to remain part of something larger than ourselves. Like many veterans, we had the potential to become entrepreneurs, but we couldn’t access financing from banks. The U.S. Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund stepped in, believing in us and our mission.

Private financial institutions use government grants and loans from this fund to attract significant private investment in community development projects in hard-to-serve markets. Most of the money comes from the government, which the institutions use to take well-calculated risks, investing where banks will not.

We reopened our store thanks to a loan from the S.C. Community Loan Fund to update the facility and restock inventory. Enterprise Community Loan Fund provided a loan to grow our business.

These institutions rely on the Treasury’s loan fund, which is expected to be virtually eliminated in the president’s budget. Such a move would abandon decades of bipartisan support for this model public-private partnership, cost jobs and hurt small businesses from coast to coast.

Last year, community development financial institutions created more than 36,000 jobs, financed 34,000 homes and provided loans to 11,000 small businesses nationwide.

South Carolina has been a national leader in recognizing the vital role these institutions play in strengthening communities. We are the only state that provides a tax credit for investments in, and contributions to, them.

We urge U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott to continue South Carolina’s leadership and protect what’s working by supporting the full funding of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund in 2017 and 2018. Support for this program is support for veterans, opportunity, entrepreneurship and jobs — and for connecting our communities to the resources needed to thrive.

Marcus Scarborough