LISC National


 

Maurice A. Jones

President & CEO

Robert E. Rubin

Board Chair

 


1. 

What were some of LISC’s most significant achievements in 2017?

Bob:
Last year we saw encouraging gains from LISC’s strategy to invest in jobs and economic development. We expanded our network of Financial Opportunity Centers, which now help more than 20,000 people a year to raise their standard of living. We invested in commercial corridors and entrepreneurship, which created new jobs and increased critical local services. These are investments with a high rate of return. They support stronger household incomes, which then resonate throughout the economy. LISC is also leveraging new sources of funding. In 2017, we issued a $100 million bond offering that was the first of its kind in the community development industry. This is flexible financing that allows us to support places, including in rural America, that struggle to attract capital.

Maurice:
We had a great year on so many fronts that it’s difficult to pick just one. What really resonates with me are the exciting new partnerships we launched in strategic areas such as technology, health care, and sports. For example, over the summer, Facebook and key community organizations tapped LISC to help lead a joint effort to expand affordable housing and economic opportunity near the social media giant’s headquarters. We also committed to a broad effort to connect a decade’s worth of LISC investments--$10 billion—to help close the life expectancy gap, and that tremendous momentum has already carried through to 2018: we just announced the first big new partnership with ProMedica, an Ohio-based hospital system, to tackle the social determinants of health in the Toledo area. We also expanded our work around youth development, through partnerships with ESPN and Under Armour. More to come!

 

2.

LISC is about to mark its 40th anniversary. What does LISC continue to bring to underinvested places and their residents that no other organization does or can?

Maurice:
What makes LISC unique is our deep experience in thousands of metropolitan and rural communities, our comprehensive capacity, and our access to a diverse range of capital. Really, there are few enterprises that can attract resources from the public, philanthropic and corporate sectors as well as the capital markets. We also work with an extensive network of local, regional and national partners. This network dramatically enables our ability to deliver a range of services—all at the same time. For example, last year the U.S. Department of Labor awarded LISC $4 million to support people recently released from incarceration as they return to their communities in five different U.S. cities. Similarly, The Rockefeller Foundation gave us a grant, managed by IDEO, to think outside the box – they call it futurizing – to find innovative ways to support and raise resources for our 84 rural partners in 44 states. Who but LISC has a delivery system to impact that many people in so many places?

Bob
LISC offers that rare combination of deep local engagement and broad national support, all focused on economic opportunity and growth. The work is driven by the involvement of people in thousands of urban and rural communities, with local LISC staff working closely with them to raise standards of living. At the same time, National LISC delivers capital, programs, services and expertise to support community-based efforts. By working at both levels, LISC can respond to local demand and scale up economic opportunity. It’s a formula that for another year helped this robust and extraordinarily effective anti-poverty organization deploy more than $1.2 billion across the country.


3.

In 2017, by some accounts, the American economy was humming with unemployment at a 17-year low.

What did that mean for LISC and in the areas where we work?

Maurice: 
We’re encouraged that the national economy is adding hundreds of thousands of jobs every month, and employers need even more workers. Still, there is too much unemployment and underemployment that the headlines don’t capture, especially where LISC is on the ground. There is so much talent in our communities—really, millions of people who are eager and willing to work. We need to prepare them for the careers of today and tomorrow. And we see the opportunity all the time, in places like Houston where there are plenty of job openings and a high-demand for talent in growth industries like health care. Through our network of Financial Opportunity Centers we know that when people have access to the right kind of financial coaching, skill-building and income supports, they can step into those jobs and find new pathways to enriching careers.

Bob:
In many ways, our economy has been operating on two tracks. On one, a significant portion of the American population is enjoying the benefits of strong employment and market gains. For them the outlook is stable and positive. On the other track, far too many Americans find themselves shut out of that growth, regardless of how long or how hard they work. They face high unemployment, stagnant wages, and too few opportunities to move into better skilled, better paying positions. LISC posted more than $300 million in lending activity for the year to support businesses, jobs and educational opportunities in our neighborhoods. We are meeting those demands, and taking well-considered risks that few others outside our industry will.


4.

Bob, you’re about to mark your 20th year as chairman, and Maurice this fall you’ll have been CEO for two years.

From your very different vantage points, what does LISC’s future look like?

Bob:
One of the most remarkable things about LISC is how nimble and responsive it can be. In the early years, we focused on redeveloping the physical infrastructure of communities, especially with investments in housing. Over time, it became clear that we needed to do more. So, we broadened our focus and began thinking about our work in terms of overall quality of life, from family incomes to health and safety. That will continue to evolve as time goes on—but it will always do so in response to local demand. That essential aspect of LISC’s character is a constant.

Maurice:
We are revving up our comprehensive approach by being more innovative in creating more and better employment opportunities, both through job preparation and job creation. So a top priority is to enlarge our investment in economic development which means, just for starters, investing in small businesses, developing commercial districts, and providing support for entrepreneurs. We’ll be jumpstarting this effort by adding a new company to the LISC family. And in the months ahead, we are expanding our geography -- notably opening new local offices in the South – and growing our investments in rural America. We’ll also be rolling out extensive new policy tools on the federal, state and local level. Now is the time to be audacious. So stay tuned!

 

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Photo credit: Fran Dwight