The Neighborhood Development Center is a microfinance organisation serving in the heartland of the United States. Though microfinance has traditionally been a service reserved for developing countries, NDC brings microcredit to immigrant, minority, and low-income entrepreneurs living in the Midwestern state of Minnesota.
Operating out of the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, NDC partners with neighbourhood-based agencies to reach people who are poised to improve their community through business. NDC works in “empowerment zones” or historically underserved areas that have been identified by the local government as having the most potential for economic opportunity. Under the asset-based development model, NDC functions under the dual belief that economic development solves blight and that locals (not outsiders) are equipped to open a business that will best serve their community.
In 1999, NDC wondered “Who better to man a thriving Latin American market in South Minneapolis than newly arrived Latin American immigrant entrepreneurs?” The Mercado Central project was born: a Latino market with authentic food, housewares, gifts, groceries, salon services, and more. An incubator real estate project for microloan clients, the cooperatively owned and managed 46-shop market remains in business almost 20 later.
NDC, who served as the original real estate management team for the market, has since stepped back and the co-op has become autonomous. Formerly a neighborhood marked by vacant storefronts, Mercado Central tenants have expanded out into the street and attracted like-minded business folks. South Minneapolis has since turned into a thriving commercial district. Neighbourhood partner Latino Economic Development Center continues to handle Spanish-language business training courses and an assortment of technical assistance for clients in the neighbourhood.
Similar stories abound in other neighbourhoods across the metro area. From real estate projects to training courses, microcredit programs to resource centers, microfinance services are being made available in culturally relevant ways to the immigrant and minority neighbourhoods of Minnesota.
Entire neighbourhoods have been changed–not by money from outside the country–but by using the microfinance model within the borders of the US.
Though typically thought of as a development model for other countries, it’s exciting for those in the industry to see that microfinance works in all contexts, even in urban areas of the United States.
Find out more about Fern Software solutions, click here to request for our brochures for free!