Local First Launches Local Impact Fund to Address Social Equity

5/26/2022

A simple desire by Durango business owners to share their success with the community has turned into a formal funding mechanism for local businesses to have an impact on local social equity issues. This story is sponsored by TBK Bank and The Norm Phillips Team, at Draper & Kramer Mortgage

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Sometimes serendipity can save the world. At least that seemed to be the case when local businesses earlier this winter proposed to establish a local social equity impact fund, right when longtime residents of a local mobile home park were trying to save their homes from purchase by an out of town park management corporation. You're watching Local News Network brought to you by TBK Bank and the Norm Phillips Team. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. You might say a local housing crisis was the catalyst that fast tracked the formation of a new social equity impact fund. The Local First Foundation earlier this month formally launched its new Local First Impact Fund to address affordable housing and social equity issues in the county. And they launched it in less than a year before the idea was ever conceived. Durango business owners John Shaw and Johnny Radding last winter separately approached the Local First Foundation with similar ideas about starting a funding mechanism that would allow local businesses to address social equity issues in the community. At the same time, residents of the Westside Mobile Home Park on US Highway 160 learned that the park's owner planned to sell the property to an out of town management company. If residents weren't able to purchase the property for themselves, they faced rent increases of 50% or possible displacement out of their homes. Kismet brought the two groups together.

The impact fund is this great story of two or three different business owners, really coming separately to myself and the local First Foundation to say we want to give back to our community. We've lived here most of our lives. Durango's been good to us. We want to help in some way.

We feel like we've been helped by the community and that it was an opportunity to give back. And there's lots of different things, you know, unbelievably generous businesses here in Durango but there wasn't a way to pool an effort and go towards something a more concentrated effort. And so both individually, Johnny and I had this similar idea and approached Monique. We had never talked to each other about it. And each approached Monique with a similar idea and Monique got us together. And that was kind of how the ball started rolling.

The point of the Impact Fund is to help raise money for social equity causes here in La Plata County that we feel that maybe aren't getting handled by other entities.

The Westside mobile home park is one of the area's oldest parks, and many of the homes are 40 to 60 years old, too old to move. Lot rents are about $450 a month, but resident Alejandra Chavez says many families already work two jobs just to pay that, let alone utilities, food and childcare. Chavez said a 50% rent increase would've driven most longtime Westside families from their homes. As residents desperately tried to raise the money to purchase the park themselves, Shaw, Radding, and diGiorgio began rallying other businesses around the idea of pledging 1% of their gross earnings towards a fund to help.

I was absolutely shocked when we brought all 20 businesses together and everybody had the same idea of what they wanted to do, cuz I thought, oh, everybody will have kind of a different idea of how to help, but actually this like-minded community of business owners who are all just, you know, the best local businesses in Durango that just, you know, make Durango what it is, it makes it unique and real and a great place to live, all felt so strongly that helping out the community here at Westside was hands down the best way to get our Impact Fund launched and to make a difference here.

By May, 20 businesses had contributed more than a half a million dollars and Westside residents were the first recipients of the new Local First Impact Fund. They leveraged the donation with a $1.5 million loan from the La Plata County Commissioners and funding from the Denver based Elevation Community Land Trust to purchase the park. An offer was accepted in late March.

And we are super surprised at how people came together, how Durango community came together. And we were very surprised and excited when we heard about Local First, which I didn't know. And I screamed when I heard about, you know, their donation. I told my neighbors and they started to cry. They couldn't believe this is happening, you know, but it was such a big relief.

The Local First Foundation has set a goal of raising more than $4 million for the Local Impact Fund from local businesses that are willing to pledge 1% of their gross profits for a year. Pledges can be renewed annually. According to the foundation's website, the fund already has reached half its goal. If you'd like to make a donation or to learn more about the pledge program, visit foundation.local-first.org. Thank you for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Wendy Graham settle.

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