New CDFI at Valley Strong advances B3K's economic vision

·2 min read

May 25—The B3K Prosperity economic collaboration notched a success Thursday as Bakersfield-based Valley Strong Credit Union announced it has been awarded federal certification as a community development financial institution ready to offer services and products geared toward underserved communities.

Launching a Kern-based CDFI has been a goal of B3K for close to three years after a local needs assessment led by the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution found the county's small businesses suffer from a lack of access to capital. Although outside CDFIs have operated in Kern in recent years, and Ridgecrest-based AltaOne Federal Credit Union launched one about a year ago, Valley Strong's alone grew out of B3K's vision for economic revitalization.

"Expanding access to capital is vital to supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses," B3K Executive Director JP Lake said in a news release. "We're proud to have served as the convening force behind this initiative and excited to see entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds have the ability to access funding to grow successful companies in the Bakersfield-Kern region."

Valley Strong President and CEO Nicholas Ambrosini, who has been active in B3K while concentrating some of the credit union's philanthropy on related initiatives such as next-generation energy education, said in Thursday's release that the institution is proud the U.S. Treasury Department has recognized its efforts to support local underserved markets.

Different CDFIs help their communities in different ways, such as supporting specific types of projects. Ambrosini has said its CDFI could expand later to serve other goals but that its immediate aim would be to provide early-stage capital for small businesses that have been unable to secure a business loan.

Among CDFIs' benefits is that the federal government makes grants available specifically to them — and Valley Strong said it intends to apply for more than $7.5 million through the upcoming grant-funding round. In the meantime, the credit union said its CDFI will deploy a revolving loan fund through Kern Venture Group, Kern's only angel investor organization.