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2014 Small Business QLICI of the Year Award Recipients



Tec Centro

CDE: Community First Fund
Developer: SACA Development Corporation
Owner: The Spanish American Civic Association
Location: Lancaster, Pa.

Tec Centro 1The winner of the 2014 Small Business QLICI of the Year Award is Community First Fund for providing new markets tax credit (NMTC) financing to help build Tec Centro in Lancaster City, Pa. Tec Centro is a training center with a mission to provide low-income bilingual residents with language development training, adult basic education, bilingual skills training and job readiness and job placement services.

In 2013, SACA Development Corporation decided to expand Tec Centro's vocational training program by developing the vacant building adjacent to its headquarters into a bilingual technology and job training center. The renovated 16,600-square-foot facility contains classrooms, a construction training center, a commercial kitchen, a dental lab, a certified nursing assistant training center and a computer lab. Daniel Betancourt, president of the Community First Fund, said that SACA expects to provide services to at least 1,500 people annually.

Development supporters say Tec Centro's services will help bring more than 1,000 of the area's bilingual residents into the regional workforce annually.  Betancourt said that 60 percent of Hispanics live below the poverty line in southeast Lancaster City, where most of Tec Centro's participants reside. Many area residents are unable to find meaningful employment because of language barriers and a lack of job skills. Tec Centro offers bilingual skills training and support services for careers in healthcare, business and hospitality, food service, construction, manufacturing and office administration. Tec Centro also provides developmental education, prepares residents to obtain their general equivalency degree (GED) and helps them build a variety of general workplace and job-specific skills. SACA works with community partners, including Harrisburg Area Community College and local banks, to provide industry-specific training. Betancourt says that each year approximately 85 percent of the participants in the SACA program obtain full-time employment.

Betancourt says it was difficult for SACA to obtain the necessary funding to cover the $4.3 million in renovation costs for several reasons. First, Tec Centro wasn't projected to generate enough revenue to service debt at conventional market rates. Second, the training center's projected operating income came primarily from public sector grants, and the continued availability of those grants was uncertain. SACA worked to secure approximately $2.95 million of the total project financing, and the financing gap was filled with equity raised by the new market tax credits (NMTCs) from Community First Fund.

Honorable Mention

Michigan Renewable Carbon

CDEs: National New Markets Fund and Chase New Markets Corporation
Developer: Biogenic Reagents LLC
Owner: Biogenic Reagents LLC
Location: Gwinn, Mich.

Michigan Renewable Carbon 1The honorable mention for the 2014 Small Business QLICI of the Year Award is presented to National New Markets Fund and Chase New Markets Corporation for their investment in Michigan Renewable Carbon (MRC), a facility that produces carbonized biomass products as an alternative to coal-based products in Gwinn, Mich. The carbon-based products control mercury emission, filter liquids and refine specialty metals. Deborah La Franchi, president of the National New Markets Fund, said MRC's products will cost less, perform better and have less of an impact on the environment than non-renewable products. La Franchi says MRC's production process reduces air emissions by 90 percent and wastewater by 100 percent compared to activated carbon production facilities.

MRC is expected to significantly boost Gwinn's local economy by directly creating 45 permanent jobs at the facility and by stimulating supporting industries. MRC is collaborating with local farmers to optimize local biomass crops, and is partnering with Michigan State University to promote the development of renewable biomass feedstock, which could create more jobs and increase income in rural communities.

The developer secured multiple funds to finance MRC, which was considered a high-risk project because it was a new company using a new technology.  MRC received a $15.8 million loan, $5.8 million in equity from new markets tax credits (NMTCs), a $2 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund and $400,000 from the Michigan Green Carbon Corporation.

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