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First State’s fund partnership claims national recognition

First State’s fund partnership claims national recognition

Posted: Monday, April 26, 2010 12:03 pm

The Messenger 04.26.10
The Tennessee Rural Opportunity Fund — a first of its kind $10 million economic development fund which provides loans to small businesses in rural Tennessee — has been awarded the 2010 National Community Reinvestment Award from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.
The award recognizes the work of financial institutions that are advancing innovative solutions to the challenges facing lower-income and distressed communities.
The fund is a public-private partnership between the State of Tennessee, 23 member banks of the Tennessee Bankers Association and Southeast Community Capital Corporation (SCC) that utilizes a unique collaborative access to capital strategy to lend to small businesses in Tennessee’s rural communities. It is a component of the Rural Opportunity Initiative, a three-pronged strategy unveiled by Gov. Phil Bredesen in fall of 2007 to bolster economic growth in rural areas.
Launched in 2007 and operated by Southeast Community Capital, the Rural Opportunity Fund is expected to generate $25 million in loans and finance over 350 small, minority- and women-owned businesses that will create more than 600 new jobs over 10 years. To date, the fund has originated over $9 million in loans to 44 businesses, creating nearly 200 new jobs and retaining about 400 existing positions. Almost 70 percent of the loans have been made to women and/or minority-owned businesses.
“We are excited about this partnership and the national recognition it has received,” said John Clark, president and CEO of First State. “When Tennessee Rural Opportunity Fund was created, First State was one of the first financial institutions to join that effort. We are proud of what our investment has resulted in thus far, especially the way it has helped so many women and minority-owned small businesses in rural communities across the state. It is First State’s corporate culture to give back to the communities we serve and this is one way we are doing that.”
The award was presented on March 16 in New Orleans at the 25th National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank, the Office of the Comptroller of the Cur-rency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of Thrift Supervision.
First State Bank has 27 full-service banking locations in 22 communities throughout Tennessee. It is owned by Community First Bancshares Inc., headquartered in Union City.

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