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Three Themes from the 2023 CDFA National Development Finance Summit

The 2023 CDFA National Development Finance Summit highlighted the work of economic and community developers nationwide who are financing projects that are critical to community development and economic prosperity but not fully supported by institutional lenders. 

Philadelphia was a great host city for the summit. Jodie Harris, president of Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), welcomed us to Philadelphia—a city of “history, culture, pride, and passion”—and highlighted the redevelopment of the Philadelphia Navy Yard as a success story. In 1996, the closure of the Navy Yard resulted in the overnight loss of ten thousand jobs. PIDC took ownership of the site, which needed significant remediation and infrastructure improvements. For more than two decades, the industrial corporation, along with many partners, has revitalized the Navy Yard through a series of significant investments, thoughtful planning, and creative financing tools. The Navy Yard now hosts 150 companies and fifteen thousand jobs and was labeled by Politico as “the coolest shipyard in America.” The next phase of work will seek $6 billion worth of investment to create a life sciences and education hub, and prioritize equitable economic development through workforce training programs, contracting requirements for developers, and small business creation. (“How a DEI Focus Made the Philly Navy Yard’s First Residential Groundbreaking a Reality”)

The Navy Yard was a case study for common themes that continued across many of the planning, finance, and development projects highlighted by speakers: racial equity, future of work, and sustainability and resilience

Equity — Olivia Barone, Neyli Castillo Suarez, Tonita McKnight, and Zaba Rashan shared their research into best practices for equitable lending. Their work explored challenges that small businesses face when accessing capital, and the guide they created provides a framework for commercial lenders to offer more equitable lending programs. This resource includes best practices, strategies, and initiatives to remove barriers and improve the availability of financing options for small businesses. 

Future of Work — Speakers highlighted efforts to assist entrepreneurial and small-business activity, both through strategic partnerships and through specific financing tools like the $10 billion State Small Business Credit Initiative. Presenters also offered case study examples for financing critical worker supports like training, childcare, transportation, and workforce housing.

Sustainability and Resilience — CDFA submitted a $2 billion proposal to create a clean investment accelerator to help development finance agencies build their capacity to finance qualified projects that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants in low-income or disadvantaged communities.

The summit enabled practitioners to share creative approaches to lending. While there remain significant needs nationwide—a seven million housing unit shortage, a demand for additional childcare capacity, underinvestment in marginalized communities—this is an important and exciting time to be in this field. As one of my colleagues at the summit noted, there is now “more on both sides of the ledger—community need and capital availability—you just need to know where to look.”


Do you have a creative funding strategy you’re trying to bring to fruition? Are you looking for funding for a plan or idea and want to strategize? Fourth Economy helps small and large non-profit organizations, larger cities, municipal governments, and others plan, finance, and develop projects with equity, sustainability, and resilience at the forefront. Drop us a line today. We’d love to connect with you!

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