Portfolio Partner Profile
Partner Community Capital (formerly Natural Capital Investment Fund)
Partner Community Capital ™ (PCAP), formerly Natural Capital Investment Fund, advances equity and helps communities flourish by lending to enterprises that promote a healthy environment and healthy families in Central Appalachia and the Southeast. Through 2020, PCAP has lent more than $88 M to 520 enterprises that have created or retained over 7,100 jobs, primarily for low- and moderate-income individuals. Over 50% of the businesses PCAP supports are owned by women or people of color, and over 85% are in rural or economically distressed communities. PCAP believes capital alone is not enough to provide the economic boost these communities deserve. The fund provides over 4,000 hours of technical assistance annually to prospective borrowers and portfolio companies, making sure they are well-equipped to make the best use of PCAP’s loan capital.
Partner Community Capital ™ meets its mission as a certified community development financial institution (CDFI) by supporting a range of triple-bottom-line enterprises that promote equity, protect the environment and grow the economy. Primarily environmental and natural-resource based businesses and vital community services, these include: healthy local food and specialty agriculture, renewable energy and energy efficiency, eco- and heritage tourism, child and adult day care, primary healthcare providers, and small town main street redevelopment.
Established in 1999, Partner Community Capital ™ is headquartered in Charles Town, West Virginia and maintains offices across West Virginia and North Carolina (its main markets); it also serves the Appalachian regions of surrounding states.
Featured Impact Story
Building local food systems...sustainably
It all started with a neighbor’s goats and the question: “Can we milk ‘em to make cheese?” With that, Michael Koch and Pablo Solanet created what would eventually become Firefly Farms’ most popular cheese, the Allegheny Chèvre.
Twelve years later, the Firefly team has grown and prospered by selling a divine selection of nationally and internationally award-winning cheeses at their Accident, Maryland market and in retail locations like Whole Foods. If you’re in the DC metropolitan area, you may have even tasted their cheese on your sweetgreen salad.
Michael and Pablo have always understood the importance of fairness and sustainability in business. Firefly sources milk from local goat farmers within a 30-mile radius who are paid on the quality of their milk and are committed to humane animal husbandry. The creamery eliminates waste by productively reusing its protein-rich cheese by product, sweet whey, for animal feed.
PCAP provided loan capital and technical support to Firefly for the purchase and installation of a 27 kW solar PV system, which reduced Firefly’s energy bill by 33%. The system will produce over 200,000 kW of electricity over 7 years, and will ensure many more sunny and delicious days ahead for Firefly.
Photo by Michael Koch
Creating Jobs by Protecting Water Quality
Recycling doesn’t always mean paper and plastic. Dylan Gehrken and his company Greasecycle collect and refine millions of pounds of used cooking oil and waste trap grease from North Carolina businesses for biofuel and compost each year. Not only is this work good for the environment; it’s also good for business.
Shortly after graduating with a degree from the University of Virginia’s economics program, Gehrken recognized an untapped economic opportunity in grease recycling. Gehrken put together a plan to provide companies that pump grease traps in North Carolina’s Research Triangle with an affordable and environmentally responsible way to dispose of their waste. Unfortunately, transportation costs can make grease trap waste collection inherently unprofitable. As the closest disposal sites were 30 miles away, some local businesses would resort to illegally dumping their waste into sanitary sewers.
PCAP provided Greasecycle with a loan to purchase equipment and construct a grease trap waste processing facility at an industrial site in Raleigh, NC. The processing plant not only expedites the recycling process but gives Greasecycle and its competitors an affordable alternative to transporting the waste significant distances for disposal.
In 2015, PCAP refinanced and increased Greasecycle’s original loan to help the company purchase its property and continue to grow.
The company has demonstrated new ways to give these waste products a second life as biofuel or compost, while protecting water quality in the Neuse River watershed and creating jobs in the process. Since PCAP’s investment in 2012, the business has grown from four employees to 18 and from servicing 350 restaurants to 1,700 accounts in a 175 mile area. In 2018, Greasecycle was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in the United States and is a true triple bottom line success story: outsized environmental impact, quality employment and financial success.
“NCIFund has been a fantastic partner to Greasecycle and an instrumental part of our success! They took a risk on us when traditional financing was not an option without three years of positive cash flow. NCIFund fills a much-needed gap in the market between angel/seed equity investors and traditional debt financing.” – Dylan Gehrken, President, Greasecycle
Photo by Bill Bamberger
Addressing Vital Health Needs in Rural West Virginia
Physical therapist Karen Shambaugh specializes in Lymphedema treatment— a treatable—but not curable—condition that can occur after cancer surgery or radiation affecting the lymph nodes. She’s the only therapist who does this within 75 miles of Ridgeley, West Virginia. She also provides a full range of other physical therapy services, including treatment for back and neck pain; headaches; post-operative and sports rehabilitation; and geriatric problems. Her services are certainly needed: West Virginia has the highest rate of Social Security disability recipients in the United States.
After 16 years of ever-increasing responsibilities working for two other rehabilitation services, Karen wanted to enhance the level of care and treatment to people in her community, and she decided it was time to strike out on her own. She recruited an experienced staff and found a perfect location between Short Gap and Ridgeley. She had a long list of clients who were delighted to keep using her services, along with a growing number of area physicians who knew her work and were happy to refer patients to her.
Almost everything Karen needed was there—talent and experience, a real local need for her services, a seasoned team of professionals and a perfect location. But she was short of the capital she needed to cover her start-up costs.
That’s when she turned to PCAP. PCAP’s mission-driven lending includes loans to support critical community services, like medical facilities, which are in high demand but short supply in rural areas. PCAP partnered with a state-run revolving loan fund to provide a loan to cover the cost of equipment, needed building renovations, supplies, and working capital. Karen opened X-Cel Performance Rehab in January 2016, and the clinic’s patient load has grown steadily. Things have gone so well, in fact, that PCAP helped her purchase her building in September 2017, an additional big step forward for X-Cel.
X-Cel serves about 100 patients per week and has grown to a staff of six therapists and one administrator, making it an important employer in Ridgeley, a town of 643. She is contemplating providing additional services, which will keep her business growing.
The people she has helped are ecstatic. One patient’s five-star review—the only kind the clinic has received—is typical:
"The positive experience of Xcel Performance Rehab begins when I walk in and lasts long after I leave because I know I am in the road to recovery. Karen's enthusiastic, outgoing personality and "we are in this together" attitude make therapy sessions enjoyable. I recommend X-Cel Performance Rehab to everyone who needs physical or occupational therapy and is looking for a bright, pleasant atmosphere with kind support and favorable results."
Photo by Sam Levitan