About

History

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.

The mission of FORGE is to promote community development and economic sustainability by linking investors with borrowers, urban and rural communities, consumers with producers, and low income groups with basic affordable credit.

  • 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.
our board
James Morgan, Ph.D.

Jim Morgan raises sheep in Washington County, Arkansas. He and his wife Teresa’s focus is to make the farm sustainable financially, socially, and environmentally. Besides raising breeding stock, they direct market their lamb at the Fayetteville Farmers Market and to local restaurants. Jim has been a member of the FORGE Board of Trustees since 1995. Jim’s background in sustainable agriculture and political issues has led to his involvement in promoting sustainable communities that use their natural resources wisely. Jim also works for, writes and gives presentations for national sheep associations.

Jessica Fritts

Jessica Fritts

Secretary/Treasurer

Jessica Fritts is a practicing attorney licensed in the state of Arkansas since 2017. A native of Huntsville and a graduate of Huntsville High School, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in poultry science and agricultural business from the University of Arkansas in 2013. She received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2016 and is finishing her masters of law (LL.M.) in Agricultural and Food Law from the University of Arkansas School of Law. Jessica lives in Huntsville.

Herb Culver

Herb Culver

Board Member

Herb Culver grew up on a duck farm in Indiana. After working in residential construction for 25 years, Mr. Culver then operated Bean Mountain Farms, a greenhouse nursery specializing in organic, open-pollinated and heirloom varieties of vegetable, herb and flower plants. He is currently developing Gather Together Farms, a farming cooperative in Combs, Arkansas. For the past 30 years he has lived on an off-grid, solar powered homestead in Newton County. He enjoys promoting local and organic food production, seed saving and gardening. Mr. Culver has been a member of FORGE for 15 years.

Gregory Modica

Gregory Modica

Board Member

Gregory Modica is the owner of Government Supply Services (GSS), an online facilities vendor of office, technology, and industrial supplies. GSS is a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), a Small Business Administration (SBA) Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone), an Ability One business, and a member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Modica is a graduate of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Arkansas program, the International Economic Development Council’s Basic Economic Developers course, and the Arkansas Small Business Administration’s inaugural class of its Emerging Leaders course. He currently serves on the Executive and Advisory Board of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce and served two terms on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Advisory Council. His passion in life is to mentor veterans and entrepreneurs in underserved communities on how to start a business, build networking relationships, find resources to develop personally, and grow their business. Modica holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Grambling State University and a B.S. in Aviation Science (magna cum laude) from Utah Valley University, where he was also a Military Science Honor Graduate. Modica is U.S. Army lieutenant and licensed private pilot.

Mary Sanchez

Mary Sanchez

Board Member

Mary is the Director of Immigrant Programs for Credit Counseling of Arkansas. Before becoming a member of the FORGE Board of Trustees, Mary served on Boards of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Rebuilding Together, The Fayetteville Community Foundation, The Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas and the Multicultural Center of NWA. Mary is a certified credit counselor and has a BS/BA degree in Data Processing and Quantitative Analysis. She worked as a contract manager for the aviation industry and as an English teacher in Argentina. Mary is an artist and her family runs a restaurant in Fayetteville.

our staff
Itzel Velazquez

Itzel Velazquez

Kiva Hub Capital Access Manager

Itzel (she/her/hers) is the Little Rock Kiva Hub Capital Access Manage for Forge as well as the Little Rock Business Consultant for Conexion de Negocios Latinos (Latinx Business Connections) where she provides support to Latinx business owners. Itzel holds a master’s degree in Higher Education from Loyola University Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Central Arkansas. 

She has worked for several nonprofits in Arkansas focusing on educational equity and immigrants’ rights advocacy. She previously worked as the Director for Replicate, an initiative of the City of Hope Outreach (CoHO) where she was responsible for the implementation, coordination, and logistical support of nonprofit organizations established and supported by CoHO.

Itzel serves as a board member for the Women’s Leadership Network and Create Little Rock.

Latanyua T. Robinson

Latanyua T. Robinson

East Arkansas Regional Director

Latanyua Taylor Robinson is a native of Stuttgart, who currently lives in Crittenden County. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Arkansas and an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University. She has almost three decades of practical experience in industrial manufacturing / engineering, workforce, and business development from a wide variety of industries. She has held leadership roles in operations, engineering, quality, and marketing management. 

Along with her role at FORGE, Latanyua is active in community and economic development throughout Eastern Arkansas. Self-described as a serial entrepreneur, Latanyua is the Founder & President of Latrobe LLC, a consulting firm focused on the career readiness, commercial readiness, and community readiness for individuals, businesses, and institutions ( www.LATROBELLC.com ). LATROBE LLC has been providing management consulting in industrial manufacturing and transportation for over a decade. In 2019, the business evolved into a consulting firm that operates transactional businesses to provides livable wage job opportunities. The Mission of LATROBE LLC is to advocate for Economic Empowerment thru Education + work Experience + Entrepreneurship. 

Latanyua is excited to grow FORGE’s mission in the Arkansas Delta region. As a small business owner, she lives the same experience of entrepreneurs and startups who need access to non-traditional funding sources and to technical assistance in commercial business development. 

Mark Nelson

Mark Nelson

Director of Lending

Mark was born and raised in Northwest Arkansas. After graduating from Huntsville High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in banking and finance from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Mark has worked in the banking industry for over 35 years, spending almost all of that time in lending, and most recently as a Senior Loan Officer at Arvest Bank in Huntsville. Mark is involved in many community organizations, including the Huntsville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Huntsville Lions Club, and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Housing Authority Development District, where he has held various leadership positions over the years. Mark lives in Huntsville with his wife of 28 years and has two grown children.

Brea Cook

Brea Cook

Loan Manager

Originally from Cambridge, Illinois, Brea attended Black Hawk East College in Kewanee, Illinois. After graduating with an Associate’s degree in Applied Animal & Equestrian Science, Brea trained racehorses in Chicago and worked as a scheduling coordinator at an animal boarding facility. She then took a position with a wholesale meat packing company, Valley Meats, overseeing accounts across the country. Eventually relocating to Northwest Arkansas, Brea learned of FORGE’s work promoting community and economic development and knew she wanted to be a part of the team. The endless possibilities for outdoor activities, kayaking, fishing, hiking and horseback riding are a few of the reasons Brea moved to the area.

Jay Young, MBA

Jay Young, MBA

Central Arkansas Regional Director & Director of Minority Business Development

Jay has more than 20 years of business operations experience in the engineering and technology, financial services, healthcare, and consulting arenas. Jay possesses onsite and virtual international team experience from Germany, Switzerland, and Mexico. Jay has served as a C-Suite level professional, is a business owner focused primarily on but not limited to risk management and succession planning. He understands collaboration with the CEO and other senior and C-level employees to affect results. Jay has provided more than 15 years of volunteer service with over 8 years directly associated with teaching business concepts and life skills as a Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) mentor and a Service Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) counselor. He earned a M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship from University of Dallas in Irving, TX and a B.S. in Industrial Technology with a minor in Operations Management from Texas A&M University in Commerce, TX. Jay values family time with wife Julia, and three children, Amon, Jerusha, and Lauren.

Sandra Carrasco-Quezada

Sandra Carrasco-Quezada

Director of Latinx Business Development

Sandra is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. Sandra has lived in the US for over 14 years. Through her experience as an immigrant, she is committed on helping others succeed. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Arkansas and has spent years in cross-functional roles ranging from operations, engineering, finance, and analytics. She is the co-founder of Bites & Bowls a local’s favorite in Northwest Arkansas. When Sandra is not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Sina, and their son, Jahangir.

Megan Whitehead, MBA

Megan Whitehead, MBA

South Arkansas Regional Director

In addition to her work as the South Arkansas Regional Director at FORGE, Megan works as an Instructor of Finance in the Rankin College of Business at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. She has a B.S. in Agriculture Business and an M.B.A., both from Southern Arkansas University. Prior to the transition to full-time faculty, Megan was the Center Director for the SAU Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center. She has extensive experience working with small businesses and enjoys being able to assist entrepreneurs in achieving their business goals. She is active in her church and works with the youth at First Baptist Church in Taylor. She also serves on the board of the Walker’s Creek/Stateline Public Water Authority, serving as its vice president.

Bill Fox

Bill Fox

Director of Technical Assistance

Bill Fox comes to FORGE with 15 years of business consulting experience. He served for 11 years as a business consultant and Center Director for the Small Business and Technology Development Center at the University of Arkansas. During his career at the U of A, Bill worked and consulted with businesses from a wide range of business sectors, from retail and restaurants, to health care and professional services. He has conducted numerous seminars on a variety of topics including; business planning and strategy, starting a business, marketing, cash flow management, financing options, and more. Bill also taught Strategic Management as an adjunct faculty at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Jerry Huddleston, MBA

Jerry Huddleston, MBA

Director of Compliance

Jerry Huddleston brings more than fifteen years of experience in compliance reporting, personnel management, financial analysis, and data analytics to FORGE. He is a graduate of John Brown University, possessing a B.S. in Organizational Management and an MBA in Leadership and Ethics. Jerry studied entrepreneurship in Northwest Arkansas for his master’s degree and is going to bring valuable insights and technical assistance to FORGE clients. A self-described “data nerd”, Jerry loves to delve deep into data, finding patterns and cycles that can then be used for the betterment of the organization. “I am excited to be joining the FORGE leadership team,” says Jerry. “I have been familiar with FORGE for over a decade, and have always found its mission of community development to be of paramount importance in Arkansas. There is so much talent and there exist so many possibilities for success in Arkansas. Often, folks just need some help to get things started. I can’t wait to start making a positive difference for my neighbors and fellow Arkansans.” Born in Little Rock and raised in North Central Arkansas, Jerry has called Arkansas home for most of his professional career, and currently makes his home in Fayetteville.

Brittany Blisard

Brittany Blisard

Administrative Assistant

Brittany was born and raised in Huntsville, AR. Where she graduated high school with honors. Brittany is your typical small town girl and loves hunting, fishing, riding four wheelers and horses, rodeoing with her in-laws, spending free time at the river with friends and family, and going jeeping whenever possible. Brittany grew up on a farm and still lives on that farm with her husband and two young boys. Brittany is currently attending college to receive her associate’s degree in accounting and later on pursuing her bachelor’s degree.

Philip Adams

Philip Adams

Executive Director

Philip Adams has served as the Executive Director of FORGE since March 2020 after having joined the staff in 2019 as the Northwest Arkansas Regional Director. Previously, he served as the Director of Arkansas PROMISE, a five-year, $35 million federal grant to the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Education. Services provided through PROMISE included paid work experiences, intensive case management, employment training and support for youth and families, benefits counseling, and health and wellness education. Families also participated in financial literacy workshops that focus on asset building, financial planning and financial management. In 2018, Adams was honored by the Association on Higher Education and Disability for his work to promote social justice for people with disabilities in their communities. Adams formerly worked as an organic farmer in Nashville, TN, and as special assistant for agency and legislative affairs in Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe’s office. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, and lives with his two children in Fayetteville, AR.

Contact

Phone: (479) 738-1585
Email: forge@forgefund.org
Fax: (479) 738-6288
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1138
Huntsville, AR 72740

forge-logo

Legal

The Federal Equal Credit Oppurtunity Act (ECOA) prohibits creditors from discriminating against credit applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age (provided the applicant has the capacity to enter into a binding contract), because all or part of the applicant’s income derives from any public assistance program, or because the applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Mission

FORGE, through its community based lending activities, seeks to promote community development and enhance the quality of life and economic sustainability of agrarian communities by linking...

Investors with Borrowers
Urban and Rural Communities
Consumers with Producers
Low income groups with Basic Affordable Credit

Disclaimer Notice: The Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits creditors from discriminating against credit applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age (provided the applicant has the capacity to enter into a binding contract), because all or part of the applicant’s income derives from any public assistance program, or because the applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.