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Investment is opportunity to rebuild our communities

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Cory Nettles
November 17, 2009

In the last 18 months, our economy has been shaken at its very core. We’ve heard about derivatives and interest rate swaps and Ponzi schemes. We’ve seen more than 100 banks fail in 2009 alone—and the number is rising. Now is the time to get back to basics. And that’s just what community investing is all about.


Plain and simple, community investing is capital from investors that is directed to communities underserved by traditional financial sources.


During my tenure as Wisconsin’s secretary of Commerce, I had the opportunity to work in communities where businesses were closing, people were losing their jobs and municipalities were left with shrinking tax bases. What struck me were the opportunity and the responsibility we had to reinvest in our communities and make things right. But to do that involved risk; more risk than traditional sources were willing to accept.


For that very reason, I started Generation Growth Capital, a private social equity fund that focuses on companies in low- to moderate-income communities and minority entrepreneurs. Our goal is to fund businesses that ordinarily wouldn’t have access to capital. Not because they don’t have the potential to be good businesses but because their goal and ours is built on the double bottom line. It’s about making a profit and making a difference.


The individuals and foundations and corporations that invested in Generation Growth Capital strongly believe that the minority and low-income communities of Wisconsin have to have strong wealth-creation vehicles—and community investing makes it happen.


Today, we all have an opportunity to do things differently. That opportunity extends to investing in our communities with care and thoughtful deliberation. Community investing is a viable, sound and sustainable way to align investment decisions with values.


Whether it’s investing in a community development bank or credit union, a nonprofit loan fund or a social business enterprise, investing in your community makes good sense and has an impact that is both financial and social. It’s a way for individual and corporate investors to make a difference—locally, statewide and even across the world.


The positive impact of community investing runs deep. Investors who define their communities by geography or social or demographic descriptors have realized a steady return on their investments. But equally important is the return that isn’t as quantifiable—it’s a feeling of taking control of your money and putting it to good work in your community, however you define it.


To learn more about how you can invest in your communities, Forward Community Investments, a statewide nonprofit loan fund, is hosting a day-long conference in Madison on Thursday, Nov. 19, designed to inform, inspire and motivate those interested in making their money work in alignment with their communities, risk tolerance, values and beliefs.


Visit www.forwardci.org for more information.


Community investing: It starts today.


Cory Nettles served as secretary of Commerce under Gov. Jim Doyle and is managing director of Generation Growth Capital. He will be speak at 11 a.m. at Thursday’s conference in Madison. He can be reached at (414) 978-8752 or cory.nettles@quarles.com.

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