Arkansas Capital is proud to announce that its CDE, Heartland Renaissance Fund, LLC, has been awarded a $65 million allocation in New Markets Tax Credits to foster investment in businesses and economic activities in low income and underserved communities throughout Arkansas. This allocation is the second-largest amount Heartland has ever been awarded. To learn more about this momentous occasion, we enlisted Christa Clark, Vice President of Heartland Renaissance Fund, to answer a few questions about the allocation, and give some insight on what how this money will change Arkansas communities for the better.
Q: What was your process for receiving the allocation?
A: New Market allocations are awarded by the Dept. of Treasury’s Community Development Institutions Funds in a competitive process each year. Heartland staff spends several weeks completing the application and analyzing the impacts from our prior investments when submitting the application. The applications are reviewed by third parties and by U.S. Treasury staff and scored. Historically, only about 28% of applicants are awarded allocation in a given year in this highly competitive process. We are always honored when we are selected, as there are always over 200 other CDEs in the applicant pool with us. We are especially thrilled this year that this is our fifth award of allocation.
Q: What areas of Arkansas has Heartland worked most with in the past? What areas do you foresee benefiting from these funds?
A: Heartland focuses almost exclusively on investing in Arkansas’ low-income communities throughout the state. We focus on areas that are underserved by traditional financing sources and direct our investments in the projects that have the most community and economic impacts to that area. As with prior allocations, Heartland will make investments statewide with at least half of its transactions in rural areas.
Q: What industries typically see the most benefit from these allocations?
A: That is one of the benefits of a flexible lending product like New Markets Tax Credits – we can use the funds to finance a variety of projects. We have financed a wide range of projects with New Markets, everything from educational facilities to non-profits and large rural manufacturing. We will continue to focus on our three core areas of education, health care, and economic development projects throughout the state.
Q: What has been one of your most rewarding experiences working with Heartland?
A: It is hard to narrow that down to one. We have so many projects that I have been blessed to work with that are improving their communities. There was one manufacturing project that we worked several months to bring to financial closing that was located in a town in the Arkansas Delta with very high unemployment and had several large employers that had closed down in recent years. When the project was about to open, I was doing a site visit and the company brought in BBQ and we ate with the newly hired plant workers in the cafeteria. The plant manager stood and thanked me, and explained how grateful they all were that they had jobs again and were able to provide for their families.
Q: How have you seen Heartland’s work positively impact the underserved businesses, the communities of underserved businesses and the entire state?
A: There have been so many benefits to underserved areas from our investments. Our New Markets financing was used to build a state-of-the-art life skills and work training facility for disabled adults in northwest Arkansas. We have seen hundreds of first generation students attend college for the first time. There has been thousands of quality jobs created in Arkansas’ manufacturing sector that are located in some of the most economically disadvantaged areas throughout the state. Our investments have enabled environmentally-sustainable products to be produced here in Arkansas and have revitalized Main Streets transforming once shuttered properties into vibrant city centers.We continue to see positive impacts for years after we close a transaction as these investments serve as catalysts for economic growth in these communities.