The 8th Annual Governor’s Native American Summit was held last week at Utah Valley University in Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah’s Rural Development State Director Wilson “David” Conine wanted to share with attendees the importance a community development financial institution (CDFI) can play in tribal development. He turned to his counterpart, South Dakota Rural Development State Director Elsie M. Meeks who has over 20 years of experience working for Native community economic development.
Meeks recognized CDFI as an important part of the infrastructure for delivering consistent funding for housing and small business development activities that benefit low and moderate income people. They combine multiple sources of public and private capital in order to make loans and investments available in ways tailored to the particular underserved geographies and types of businesses or borrowers. Developing capacity among these types of organizations can increase utilization of USDA programs in a region, many of which provide long-term below-market capital for permanent improvements in rural areas.
A successful example from South Dakota includes The Lakota Fund. A certified Native CDFI established in 1986 that serves the Oglala Lakota Oyate on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Its products and services include microloans, small business loans, business loans, credit builder loans, training, and technical assistance. Sources of funding from Rural Development include rural business opportunity grants (RBOG), rural business enterprise grants (RBEG), Intermediary Relending Program (IRP), and rural microentrepreneur assistance program (RMAP).
The keynote speaker for the event was Governor Gary Herbert and Meeks was a guest speaker. The Governor’s Native American Summit provides a forum for Utah’s American Indian population to network with state agencies and other organizations, and more importantly, a chance to strengthen relationships with the eight Sovereign Tribal Nations of Utah.