Venturing away from the Public Ledger Building, the other OFN interns and I travelled across Philadelphia to witness the positive impact the CDFI industry has made in local communities by joining OFN Member PIDC on a borrower tour. Since its founding in 1958, PIDC has been a vital resource for development expertise and financial support to drive business growth, job creation, and neighborhood revitalization throughout Philadelphia. In fact, during 2015, PIDC provided more than $1.2 billion in financing, creating or retaining more than 23,000 jobs.
The first stop on our tour was the recently opened South Philadelphia Community Health and Literacy Center (the Center) on Broad Street. With an $11.5 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation from PIDC, this new site now contains the South Philadelphia Branch of Free Library of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health Community Health Center, a CHOP Pediatric Primary Care Center, and the DiSilvestro Playground and Recreation Center. Each of these facilities has been designed to meet the needs of the surrounding area, equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The library consists of a large open space filled with books and comfortable chairs, along with several rooms for meetings, studying, and computer use. To serve the demographics of the surrounding community, this space provides specialized materials on health, literacy, and New Americans, while catering to students, job seekers, and others. Lines form early in the morning before the lobby door opens, a testament to the needs the Center fills for this neighborhood.
Next up was Duross & Langel, a soap maker and hair salon in Center City. This local small business received a working capital equipment loan from PIDC to refinance debt and expand facilities. Explaining the valuable service that CDFIs provide, D&L co-founder Steve Duross described how PIDC allowed their company to avoid predatory lenders while attaining the raw materials and equipment they needed. In addition, working with a CDFI allows D&L’s owners to maintain control over their lives and steer their business in whichever direction they see fit. Unsurprisingly, as Steve seeks to buy a new building, he expects that he will once again use PIDC to grow the business.
Our tour ended at Zivtech, a web design and development firm located at One South Broad. Zivtech has been working with PIDC for over a year using a contract line of credit to support its work with the open source platform Drupal. Jeff Waldman, Director of Project Management, described PIDC as a “life saver” for the company as they can continue operations despite cash flow constraints. Co-founder and CTO Jody Hamilton expressed that support from PIDC allows them to meet their commitment to treat employees well, enduring payroll crunches at the start of projects that are not financially fulfilled until completion. Working with PIDC, Zivtech is able to retain the people that make the business successful, take on more full-time employees and continue to see growth.
Each site visit served as a reminder to us about how OFN’s work impacts the lives of people across the country. While we may spend our days in an office, our work contributes to CDFIs, such as PIDC, that invest in, develop, and revitalize communities. Whether people are trying to provide health services, design a website, or make soap, having a strong CDFI industry, led by OFN, can enable people to achieve their goals.