Since2001

  • 4.5K Jobs

  • 257 Companies Funded
  • $46.8M Loans Deployed
  • 19.7K Hours of Assistance

From Our President & CEO

2017 was another record year for the Natural Capital Investment Fund. We closed $12.58 million in triple-bottom-line loans and helped create or retain 614 jobs, bringing total jobs created or retained since 2001 to 4,500. As banks close their rural branches and “move upstream” to serve more established borrowers, NCIFund’s flexible capital and advisory services for disadvantaged and non-traditional entrepreneurs are needed more than ever to grow resilient communities in underserved areas of Appalachia and the Southeast.

Since 2001, NCIFund has deployed $46.8 M in loans to 257 businesses and nonprofit enterprises while maintaining low loss rates, thanks in part to our extensive advisory services (nearly 20,000 hours since 2001). We’re rated A+ by Aeris, a third-party auditor of community development financial institutions. We welcome investments from individuals and institutions, so even more deserving entrepreneurs can achieve economic and environmental success and foster resilient communities. To learn more, visit ncifund.org.

– Marten R. Jenkins, Jr., President & CEO

2017 Impacts

Impact Spotlight

51%

of our borrowers were women in 2017

2,631

hours of assistance to 641 business and farms in 2017

76%

of 2017 borrowers were located in rural communities

75%

of 2017 borrowers were located in economically distressed communities

Additional 2017 Impacts

800 homes powered with biogas harvested from North Carolina hog farms by Optima BioEnergy
14,000 trips on the New and Gauley Rivers in West Virginia by River Expeditions
323K lbs of pastured beef, pork, and lamb delivered to North Carolina markets by Firsthand Foods

Growing Resilient Communities

Supporting Community Services and Diverse Borrowers

For over 17 years, Natural Capital Investment Fund has been a leader in funding and supporting green and natural resource-based businesses in central Appalachia and the Southeast. And, since healthy, equitable economies are also key to resilient communities, NCIFund also supports diverse entrepreneurs and businesses delivering essential human services to families.

prepacademyPamela Powell opened Christian Prep Academy in Durham, North Carolina, in 1998, and her 5-star rated facility is one of the only private sites offering pre-K slots for at-risk youth. When the Academy was at risk of losing its site due to Durham’s “hot” real estate market, a loan from NCIFund, in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration's 504 Loan Program, helped Pamela purchase her building, continue quality daycare for children of all backgrounds, and hire three additional staff to manage growing enrollment.

tremaineTyrone Williams’ timber and crop farm, Fourtee Acres, in Halifax, North Carolina, has been in his family for generations, and he wants to keep it that way. Through our Accounting Assistance Program for Disadvantaged Farmers funded by the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, we’ve helped Tyrone obtain accounting help and advice on structuring his operation to ensure the land is conserved as a multifaceted source of wealth for his family’s future.

”NCIFund’s Accounting Assistance program helped us in our efforts to develop sound financial practices, work with professionals in the financial arena, and continue to work towards our goals of sustainability, succession and wealth building.”
– Tyrone Williams, Fourtee Acres, Halifax, North Carolina
 

The Power of Partnership

Partners—from community banks and federal, state and local governments to non-profits and local businesses—amplify NCIFund’s impact. In 2017, Weaver Street Market, a community-owned natural foods grocery store with multiple locations in North Carolina’s Triangle area, committed $250,000 to our loan fund to support emerging food-related businesses. Just as importantly, Weaver Street’s deep knowledge of how to successfully position and market new products helps entrepreneurs avoid mistakes as they use NCIFund loans to expand.

Priming Businesses for Success

tremaineLet’s face it: small business owners can’t be experts at everything. That’s why we offer hands-on support so they can make the most of our loans. In 2017 alone, our staff and consultants delivered more than 2,600 hours of advisory services to nearly 650 businesses and farms. We helped companies apply for USDA Rural Energy for American Program (REAP) energy efficiency grants, implement QuickBooks, create new websites, and fine tune their operations. Our Cold Storage Program finances cold storage units for small farmers, while our partner NC Growing Together provides grants to “buy down” the cost and delivers training and consultation so farmers can effectively serve wholesale markets.

Forging a Path to Sustainability in Coal Country

tremaineCoal’s decline has hit Appalachian communities hard. In response, NCIFund is helping entrepreneurs use the region’s abundant natural beauty to create new economic growth. Former coal miner Jeff Davis has watched thousands of off- road vehicle enthusiasts pass through his southern West Virginia hometown of Williamson to ride the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. So, Jeff turned to NCIFund for capital to launch Sport Outfitters, which offers lodging and trail-related services. Now visitors can spend extra nights (and dollars!) in town. With our partner, the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority and funding from an Appalachian Regional Commission POWER Initiative grant, we deliver business coaching to Jeff and other entrepreneurs as they learn the entrepreneurial ropes and build a more resilient regional economy.

Why Invest in Craft Breweries?

BearWatersLocal economic development may not be your first thought as you enjoy a flight of craft beer, but breweries and cideries serve as important economic linchpins in their communities. They contribute to robust local food systems by sourcing local grain and ingredients (from apples to paw paws), catalyze downtown revitalization, create well-paying jobs, and provide gathering space for local residents. And, because they rely on quality water, the breweries we fund are committed to environmental sustainability. That’s why NCIFund has supported more than 15 breweries, cideries, distilleries and wineries, most located in small, rural communities.

Our loan helped BearWaters Brewing relocate to a historic building along the Pigeon River in downtown Canton, North Carolina. BearWaters installed a public river access point and has introduced new 8-pack can packaging using recycled material for local retail distribution, while creating five new jobs.

Bridge Brew Works was the first brewery to open in Fayetteville, West Virginia, a river rafting and outdoor tourism hotspot. After eight successful years, the brewery financed construction of their new Tap House with a loan from NCIFund, creating the additional space they need to accommodate locals and visitors taking advantage of nearby biking trails and white water rafting.

Portfolio Overview 2001 — 2017

Click on a dot on the map to see details about an NCIFund portfolio company

Loans by Sector 2001 — 2017

Total $46,561,138

piechart
  • 19% - Local Foods & Value-Added Agriculture
  • 15% - Breweries & Cideries
  • 14% - Eco- and Heritage Tourism
  • 7% - Production Agriculture
  • 7% - Health, Education & Community Services
  • 7% - Consumer Products/Services
  • 5% - Natural Medicine/Products
  • 5% - Recycling & Environmental Services
  • 5% - Manufacturing & Technology
  • 5% - Secondary Forest Products
  • 4% - Main Street Redevelopment
  • 4% - Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency
  • 2% - Business Services

Our Borrowers

Where are they now?:A Look at Early NCIFund Borrowers

NCIFund’s primary goal is to help entrepreneurs in underserved communities create employment through businesses that are good stewards of natural resources. We do this by helping companies that can’t obtain financing from traditional sources get the early financing and assistance they need to grow and “graduate” to conventional funding. We checked in recently with a few of our early borrowers to see how they’ve fared.

Simply Natural Dairy Farm, Ayden, North Carolina

simply naturalNeil Moye started farming right out of high school with the help of a local bank loan co-signed by his father, who ran the local grocery store in Ayden.   He began as a traditional tobacco and row crop farmer, but diversified his operations with antibiotic-free hogs and turkeys. 

Neil and his wife Jackie also kept a few Jersey cows, and they believed a Jersey dairy could be successful in North Carolina’s hot, humid climate. Neil planned to use his tobacco settlement payout to fund his start-up, but still needed additional capital.  NCIFund’s 2008 loan helped him buy used milking equipment, 60 Jersey calves, fencing, and build the dairy barn needed to launch Simply Natural Dairy Farm.

The dairy was profitable from the start, but Neil knew he needed to add value to his milk to succeed in the volatile dairy industry.  So, in 2014, with a feasibility study funded by the USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant program and financing from AgCarolina Farm Credit, Neil launched Simply Natural Creamery.

The Creamery has become an Eastern North Carolina agri-tourist sensation, welcoming more than 75,000 visitors annually who come to enjoy freshly churned ice cream and admire the Jerseys grazing on the adjacent dairy farm. Customers visiting Simply Natural's ice cream parlor can watch through a wall-sized window as employees convert the Jerseys’ milk into ice cream, bottled milk, butter and other products in a gleaming facility. 

Today, the combined dairy and creamery operations employ 40 full- and part-time employees, including a number of Neil’s immediate and extended family members. The Creamery’s branded products, sold through retail outlets across eastern North Carolina, are a shining example of North Carolina’s blossoming local food movement.

Annie’s Bakery, Asheville, North Carolina

annies bakeryWhen Joe and Annie Ritota of Annie’s Bakery first contacted NCIFund about a loan to expand, the organic artisan bakery’s 20 employees operated in a very cramped basement beneath their retail location in Sylva, North Carolina.

 With wholesale orders increasing, they needed more space, and more ovens, mixers and cooling racks.  NCIFund’s 2010 loan allowed Annie’s to upfit 21,000 square foot in a West Asheville business incubator, including the installation of a solar thermal system that heats thousands of gallons of water needed for processing and washing.

With the additional space, the bakery was able to operate much more efficiently and vastly increase production.  Today, Annie’s breads are served in 40 Asheville area restaurants and available in grocery stores and retail outlets throughout the Southeast.  A follow-on loan from NCIFund in 2017 funded the acquisition of additional equipment needed to keep up with demand.

The success of the business that began in Joe’s garage has allowed the company to grow full-time employment from 5 to 22 and increase the fringe benefits offered to employees.  The bakery is an important local food system linchpin, purchasing organic grain from North Carolina growers and increasing the supply of artisanal locally-produced baguettes, ciabatta, multi-grain loaves, and specialty breads.

The Custard Stand, Webster Springs, West Virginia

The Custard StandDee and Angie Cowger started The Custard Stand, a drive-up dairy bar, in their hometown of Webster Springs, West Virginia, in 1991. Within a few years, they realized their hot dog chili was something special, and with the help of Dee’s mother, in 2003, they began packaging and selling it, working out of a space “no bigger than a carwash bay,” Angie recalls. 

By 2006, sales had increased 12-fold, and the Cowgers needed more space. Their chili business was too young for a traditional bank, so they used loans from NCIFund and WV Rural Rehabilitation Fund to expand and build a warehouse.

Along with loan capital, we provided technical assistance. When they needed accounting help, NCIFund connected them with a local accountant. To improve the energy efficiency of the Carpenter 5&10 building they renovated on Webster Springs’ Main Street in 2013 as the new home of The Custard Stand restaurant, NCIFund helped them apply for a USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant.

With an unbeaten track record, Dee and Angie have been able to grow using conventional financing. Today, there are five Custard Stands across West Virginia. The Cowgers and their oldest daughter own three, and two others operate as franchises.

A 2016 appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank boosted hot dog chili sales by 40%, and the company now sells 600,000 pounds of hot dog chili and chili soup annually through retailers in 20 states, online, and The Custard Stand restaurants.   

Together, the Cowgers’ chili manufacturing operation and restaurants employ 31. Says Angie, a former school teacher, “We’ve stayed true to our roots. Our goal always was to provide income for other people in Webster County, and we’re proud we still do.”

Laurel Creek Hardwoods, Richwood, West Virginia

Laurel Creek HardwoodsIn early 2002, the upstate New York corporate owner of a formerly family-owned sawmill in Richwood, West Virginia announced it was closing the mill due to insufficient profitability caused by the economic downturn of 2001.  Long-time employees Bill and Sharon Glasscock had other ideas; they knew the mill, which sells raw logs and green lumber, could operate profitably without the burden of corporate overhead. They were ready to invest their savings, but needed additional financing to purchase the mill and invest in a horizontal resaw that would increase profitability.

Their bank BB&T, the West Virginia Economic Development Authority and a local investor had confidence in the Glasscocks, but needed to know a re-start could really succeed financially. They turned to NCIFund for help, and we obtained a USDA Rural Development grant to hire an accountant to install a new accounting system and provide training for 6 months, so the mill could prepare financial statements useful for managing the mill.   “When you’re first starting out, it’s so helpful to have someone see your vision, someone you can trust,” recalls Sharon.

With a $1 million financing package in place – including $50,000 from NCIFund for working capital to buy log inventory -- the old Mullican mill was reborn as Laurel Creek Hardwoods, saving 22 jobs in Richwood, population 2,400.

Sixteen years later, the mill is still going strong, with higher sales.  Laurel Creek now employs 25, despite the Great Recession of 2007, which led to the loss of 4,400 jobs in WV’s forest products industry. “Typically when you add efficiency, it takes away jobs,” says Sharon, who still runs the company (Bill has retired).  “But because we’ve increased production, we’ve been able to add jobs.”  Due to higher transportation costs, the mill sells more products to West Virginia hardwood lumber companies than before, though it exports hardwood logs overseas.

Investments in equipment (the resaw, a new carriage, and a cant catcher) have been essential to its success, but Sharon is clear that the Laurel Creek “family, the guys, are the key to it all. Cold weather, hot weather, they still produce a great product.”  She’s especially proud that four of their original workers have been able to retire, and that the company’s now able to offer a matching 401(k) retirement plan.

What lies ahead?  More investments for efficiency and safety, says Sharon. “We have good workers here to fill the jobs. The mill is a community asset. It needs to stay a family business.”

What 2017 Borrowers Say

Mark BullisNCIFund stepped up to the plate and got me the loan I needed to make this business come to life. Justin White [NCIFund lender] treated me like he had known me my entire life.
– Mark Bullis, Owner, Crazy Mountain Cycles, Bluefield, West Virginia
 
eclecticPromoting environmental conservation and education are our two main goals, and we are very grateful to NCIFund and Piedmont Land Conservancy for their unwavering support of our vision.
– Terrie and Thomas Easley, Wellspring Mountain, Lowgap, North Carolina
 
mark maloneyNCIFund signed on early and remained flexible as we assembled the complex financing needed to launch our ground-breaking bioenergy project converting hog waste to pipeline-grade natural gas. The bridge financing NCIFund provided was critical to our success and we look forward to working with them on future projects.
– Mark Maloney, Optima BioEnergy, Duplin County, North Carolina
 

Board of Directors and Staff

Board of Directors

  • Gat Caperton, Chair
    Caperton Furniture Works
  • Mikki Sager, Vice Chair
    The Conservation Fund
  • Jerrell “J” Deaver, Jr.
    First Citizens Bank
  • Randall (Randy) Gore
    USDA Rural Development (retired)
  • Archie Hart
    N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • W. A. “Tony” Hayes
    Trancas, LLC
  • Ruth Joseck
    United Bank
  • Jena Thompson Meredith
    The Conservation Fund
  • Erik Meyers
    The Conservation Fund
  • Evan Smith
    The Conservation Fund
Gat CapertonThe Natural Capital Investment Fund takes an entrepreneurial, creative approach to sustainability that begins with the environment but also looks beyond that to examine how we can support people, communities and local economies.  I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished and excited about what we will be able to achieve going forward.
– Gat Caperton, Owner, Caperton Furniture Works and NCIFund Board Chair
 

Staff

Marten JenkinsMarten Jenkins
President and CEO
Rick LarsonRick Larson
Senior Vice President and Director of Strategic Initiatives
Rosalind L. BlackRosalind L. Black
Director of Finance
Erika McGilleyErika McGilley
Western North Carolina Business Lender
Quinn ColemanQuinn Coleman
Business Lender & Credit Analyst
Kevin O'ConnorKevin O'Connor
West Virginia Business Lender
TF CongletonTF Congleton
Eastern North Carolina Business Lender
Kristy SittonKristy Sitton
Loan Closing Specialist
Todd CrumpTodd Crump
West Virginia Business Coach
Anna TefftAnna Tefft
Senior Vice President and Director of Lending
Janette DeLapaJanette DeLapa
Staff Accountant
Hannah VargasonHannah Vargason
Energy Project Manager
Bob KeelBob Keel
Loan Fund Administrator
Justin WhiteJustin White
West Virginia Business Lender
 

Invest With Us

NCIFund offers investors the unique opportunity to back companies that create jobs and benefit the environment in distressed communities. By growing our pool of capital, investors can help mission-driven entrepreneurs achieve economic and environmental success.

NCIFund has funded over 250 businesses, farms, and non-profit enterprises while maintaining low loss rates. We credit this success to our rigorous underwriting process and the technical support we provide to our borrowers. We maintain a A+ rating from AERIS, a third-party auditor of community development financial institutions. To inquire about investments in Natural Capital Investment Fund, contact Marten Jenkins, CEO, at 304-870-2207, or mjenkins@conservationfund.org.

Funders and Investors

  • Appalachian Regional Commission
  • Appalachian Power
  • Associated Hardwoods, Inc.
  • Avista Business Development
  • Branch Banking & Trust CRA & Community Development
  • Branch Banking & Trust West Virginia Foundation
  • Calvert Foundation
  • CEI Capital Management, LLC
  • Central Appalachian Network
  • Charles M. and Mary D. Grant Foundation
  • Citi Communities at Work Fund
  • Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation
  • Clients of Fresh Pond Capital
  • Clients of Reynders, McVeigh Capital Management, LLC
  • Clients of the Sustainability Group /
  • Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Trust, LLC
  • Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI)
  • Darrin & Shaula Massena Family Fund
  • First Citizens Bank
  • Ford Foundation
  • Gat Creek
  • Golden LEAF Foundation
  • Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses
  • Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation
  • HSBC Technology & Services (USA), Inc.
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • Just Transition Fund
  • Laughing Gull Foundation
  • Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • McKnight Foundation
  • NC Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund
  • NC Rural Economic Development Center
  • NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission
  • NCIF Board, Staff and Friends
  • Nora Roberts Foundation
  • One Foundation
  • PNC Bank
  • PNC Foundation
  • Price Romine, PLLC
  • SunTrust Bank
  • Starbucks - Create Jobs for USA
  • TD Bank
  • TD Charitable Foundation
  • United Bank
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service
  • UU.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development
  • U.S. Department of Treasury – CDFI Fund
  • U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities
  • U.S. Economic Development Administration
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Wells Fargo Community Investment Holding, Inc.
  • Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital Program
  • Wells Fargo Foundation
  • West Virginia Capital Access Program
  • West Virginia Development Office / Community Advancement and Development Partnership
  • West Virginia Infrastructure Jobs and Development Council
  • Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund
  • Winston-Salem Community Foundation
  • WoodForest National Bank
  • Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
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