Guest Commentator: James R. Burnett, Executive Director, West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution @wpfsi

How can small businesses work with a community lending institution to find support during a crisis and a path to recovery?

Since its inception in 1997, the West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution (WPFSI) has served as an economic engine that facilitates empowerment and wealth-building through investing in communities. Certified by the U.S. Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), WPFSI provides capital and business technical assistance to small businesses at every stage of their development. WPFSI has also made long-term investments in the community, which include the ParkWest Town Center and our WesGold Fellows program, which benefit residents and small business owners. In the last month, we have assisted in the development of the $225 billion PA COVID-19 Relief Fund for small businesses. We experienced significant damage to our retail center due to civil unrest and are working with partners to provide new financial products to help support similarly affected businesses throughout Philadelphia.

Small Business Loans

  • SBA Micro Lender– In 2017, WPFSI became an SBA micro-lender. We provide loans of up to $50,000 using SBA funds.
  • Non-SBA Loans – WPFSI has additional loan capital from institutional and private investors that we use to make loans up to $100,000.
  • Capital Intermediary – WPFSI collaborates with several local CDFIs to provide loans over $100,000 through loan participations and referrals.

Investments in Real Estate

  • Small Residential Development Loans – WPFSI provides loans for acquisition and improvements to small residential development projects. Our focus is on small, community-based developers in low-income neighborhoods.
  • ParkWest Town Center – In 2008, WPFSI, in partnership with The Goldenberg Group, developed the ParkWest Town Center in West Philadelphia. ParkWest, a 361,000-square-foot center, brought the largest supermarket in Philadelphia to a food desert, added the first Lowe’s Home Center to a predominately African-American community, and brought banking and retail to a community that was lacking these essential goods and services.
  • WPFSI New Small Office Building – A new 8,000-square-foot office on Lancaster Avenue, which includes WPFSI’s office and 10 small offices and business training facilities for lease.

WesGold Fellows

  • Summer Internship – In conjunction with the development of ParkWest Town Center, WPFSI created a paid summer internship program, which guides a group of 15 high school students from underserved, underrepresented communities through a curriculum-based learning experience focusing on personal and professional development, financial literacy, real estate, and entrepreneurship. The program plans to further increase its impact by scaling WGF and doubling the number of internships in 2020, with a 300% increase in the number of internships by 2021.

West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution is a member of the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth Action Team, a group 110+ Chamber members and partners united to engage with a broad range of civic and neighborhood organizations in the development and execution of policies and initiatives.

Upcoming Event

[Virtual] Nonprofits & COVID-19: Measuring Impact
Tuesday, June 23, 2020 | 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. | Held via Zoom

Hear from nonprofit leaders as they discuss the importance of assessing impact and learn how to effectively use data to tell your story to funders, employees, and clients.