The oldest loan fund in Arkansas
FORGE was founded in 1988 by a group of organic farmers from throughout the Ozarks bioregion of Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. They were concerned that farmers wanting to incorporate sustainable agricultural practices into their farming systems were being hindered by a lack of affordable capital. One of their solutions was to form a revolving loan fund that would be sensitive to the needs of small farmers.
As the years went by the members of FORGE realized that agriculture was only one of the needs of rural communities and that the loan program needed to include businesses that provide services and stable employment opportunities to families living in rural areas.
In 1998 FORGE became a SBA Microlender and now offers technical assistance to start up businesses. In 2010 FORGE became a Certified Development Financial Institution (CDFI). While the range of the programs has expanded, the goals of FORGE have remained the same: to link borrowers with investors to create healthy sustainable communities throughout the Ozarks.
- Community Development Financial Institutions – or CDFIs – are mission-driven financial institutions that are dedicated to providing financial services to meet the needs of economically disadvantaged individuals within underserved communities.
- CDFIs invest in local communities and the residents who live there by providing critically needed financing often unavailable from mainstream financial institutions.
- CDFIs are certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund – known as the CDFI Fund. In order to become a certified CDFI, the financial institution must: have a primary mission of promoting community development; provide financial products and services; serve one or more defined low-income target markets; maintain accountability to the community it serves; and be a legal non-governmental entity.
- All CDFIs share a common mission of serving low-income communities. CDFIs are commonly loan funds, credit unions, community banks, or venture capital funds.
- Certified CDFIs are part of a national network promoting economic growth in America’s underserved communities by financing businesses, creating jobs, and rebuilding neighborhoods.
- As a CDFI, Forge Community Loan Fund puts the community first and values local, economic growth.