Community First Fund (CFF) is the premier economic development organization in central Pennsylvania that is home to 3.5 million people, with a cross section of smaller distressed urban centers, rural communities experiencing job loss, and affluent suburban towns. CFF provides business counseling, training, and loans to new and emerging small businesses. CFF's mission is to create lasting economic growth for its communities by providing equitable financial services, technical knowledge, and advocacy for its customers.
Community First Fund (CFF) is a federally certified and Pennsylvania accredited community development financial institution targeting its resources and activities in economically distressed communities of central Pennsylvania so as to encourage economic development and business growth.
CFF provides one-on-one business counseling and technical assistance, business training courses and seminars, and six types of loans further described. Small Business' loans (typically defined as microenterprise loans) up to $35,000 are made for starting new businesses or expanding existing businesses. Loan uses vary but may include equipment purchases, site improvements, working capital, inventory and/or expansion costs. Mid-sized Business' loans range from $35,000 to $500,000 and are typically for businesses at least two years old that have increased capital needs related to their growth.
CFF Affordable Housing' loans are made to for- and non-profit developers to rehabilitate housing for rental or resale. Community-based' loans are for non-profit organizations to develop and support community-based programs. Commercial Mortgage' loans up to $500,000 are made for the purchase, construct or refinance commercial properties used for investment, retail or wholesale operations, light manufacturing, storage, etc. CFF also disburses SBA 7-A guaranteed loans ranging from $50,000 to $300,000.
CFF makes a significant number of loans to Persons of Color, women, and low-wealth individuals, however, CFF makes loans to any qualified applicant. For the most part, CFF borrowers are unable to access credit from traditional financial institutions due to lack of assets for collateral, lack of business experience and in some cases, problematic credit histories. Within the niche of small business training and lending, the organization maintains a special focus on segments of society that have traditionally had limited access to professional training and capital, but are worthy candidates to become successful business owners.
In the last fifteen years CFF has supporting over 550 businesses with more than $11 million in loans that help small businesses start-up or expand and had a direct impact in the creation and retention of over 1,000 jobs. The funds also supported the development and rehabilitation of more than 250 units of affordable housing. In 2004 CFF expanded its services to include a specialized training and counseling arm, Pennsylvania Women's Business Center. The center offers a variety of training for entrepreneurs include special seminars on government procurement, emphasizing opportunities with the Commonwealth for state contracting.
When Edward “Champ” Hall was 13 years old he got a bad hair cut, so he picked up his dad’s clippers and fixed his hair. From this experience, Champ’s career developed. Over the past 25 years, Champ has had six barber shops located in Lancaster city and Columbia (Lancaster County), PA which he has operated as sole proprietorships. In 2003 a dream came true for Champ when a loan from Community First Fund allowed him to open the first barber school in Lancaster—one of only six in the state. Champ had received two previous loans from Community First Fund for expanding and improving his one remaining barber shop however opening the school was one of his proudest moments. Full Story