Investing in Our Cooperative Future

NCGA’s Development Co-op Loan Fund
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At the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), our vision is to see more food co-ops serving more people in more communities. In fact, providing a development mechanism for new and expanding co-ops is one of our global ends. Toward this end, NCGA created a subsidiary Development Cooperative (DC) in 2008 to provide business development and expansion services to retail food co-ops, a venture which to date has supported dozens of projects. 

As we continue to pursue accelerated growth for our sector, we recognize that funding is an essential and often challenging aspect of co-op development. NCGA decided to address this with a truly cooperative solution, initiating creation of the DC Loan Fund in 2013 to provide an additional financing option for co-ops seeking to grow and expand. 

Just over a year later, we are pleased to announce that thanks to generous investments from NCGA member co-ops as well as by NCGA itself, we have reached the $2 million in subordinated notes needed to officially launch the fund at its full potential. Our co-op investments collectively leverage an additional $8 million from our financial partner, Capital Impact Partners, for a total available fund of $10 million, from which we will begin to issue loans to co-ops this summer. The DC will manage the fund, with Capital Impact Partners providing underwriting and loan administration services.

Capital Impact Partners (formerly NCB Capital Impact) is a nonprofit community development financial institution pursing ends that include the economic advancement of cooperatives and a Healthy Foods Initiative in California. It recognizes the community-anchoring potential of co-op grocery stores to deliver healthy food and invigorate their local economies as a worthy investment toward those ends.

For NCGA co-ops, the fund affords a unique opportunity to invest financially in our own sector and fulfill our commitment to the cooperative principles of autonomy and independence and cooperation amongst cooperatives. Ashland Food Co-op (Ashland, Oregon) also sees the fund as a sound investment. “We are fortunate enough to be in a position where we are looking for places to invest funds not needed for immediate operations,” explains Christina Oliver, Ashland’s financial manager. “What better place to invest than in a fund to help develop fellow food cooperatives?” She adds, “This is a bona fide investment, and we fully expect to be repaid with interest.”*

Oryana Natural Foods Market in Traverse City, Michigan, cites the advancement of cooperatives and our sector as being a primary motivator for their investment. “Oryana is a strong supporter of efforts to promote and expand the cooperative model. Making this investment allows us, our team, and our owners to participate in launching more great grocery co-ops to keep us all vibrant and relevant,” says Oryana General Manager Stephen Nance. “We are also thinking about our own expansion and appreciate that there are resources that we all can share.”

For information about the fund or obtaining a project loan, contact
NCGA Development Cooperative’s executive director, Dave Blackburn, at
[email protected]

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