Lessons from Nashville: Community Development Starts With Entrepreneurs

By Corey Carlisle

Financing community development in low- to moderate-income communities often requires a creative mix of public, private and philanthropic resources. Success is frequently measured by the number of people served, graduation rates and jobs created. At the center of these efforts, however, is often an individual or team of visionaries that have intimate knowledge of their neighborhoods and a business plan that spurs community revitalization.

The ABA Foundation’s fourth annual community development tour, one of the marquee events of ABA’s Annual Convention, highlighted the redevelopment of the Wedgewood-Houston and Rolling Mill Hill areas just south and east of downtown Nashville. Up until recently, these center-city neighborhoods had largely been bypassed as the metropolitan area spread out horizontally in low-rise apartment, retail, hotel and office buildings.


Tourgoers learned from Clint Gwin, president of Pathway Lending, a Treasury-certified lending organization based in Nashville, about how the city is changing as denser, mixed-used development takes shape. This shift illustrates Nashville’s appeal as a place to live, work and play, especially to young professionals who require walkable urban neighborhoods. As this rapid transformation brings new challenges like construction, traffic and skyrocketing housing prices, city agencies and nonprofit organizations are partnering with banks to ensure that Nashville continues to provide opportunities that benefit all citizens.

Below are just a few of the community visionaries we met:

Joe Cain is the development director for Nashville Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency. He discussed how high-quality project designs can help mitigate “not-in-my-backyard” (NIMBY) opposition to create vibrant anchors that drive economic growth. Though a combination of tax credits supported by the banks and other financing, his organization constructed the city’s first affordable apartment residence with a preference for people pursuing a career in the arts.

Kristy Pomeroy is the community services manager at the Next Door, a nonprofit serving women in need of treatment and rehabilitation stemming from addiction to drugs and alcohol as well as mental illness, trauma or incarceration. She discussed the vital importance banks such as Pinnacle Bank, First Tennessee Bank and the Bank of Nashville along with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati’s Affordable Housing Program played in the development of the Freedom Recovery Community, an affordable housing complex for single women and women with children diagnosed with a substance abuse addiction or a mental illness.

A former laboratory director, Bruce Boeko wanted to put his science background to work in a new setting—a distillery. Thanks for support from Pathway and its consortium of bank partners, his vision led to Nashville Craft (see photo above). Two small-batch spirits are highlights–Crane City Gin, a nod to the booming nature of the city, and Naked Biscuit Sorghum Spirit, a celebration of Tennessee’s tradition in growing sorghum for its staple breakfast syrup.

Claire Meneely’s bakery was initially intended to be a holiday cookie pop-up business. However, thanks to strong word-of-mouth popularity, good press and some great help from banks and community lenders, Dozen Bakery and its café have a new home in Wedgewood-Houston. The bakery supports vendors, farmers and artisans who believe in supporting the local community and who consistently deliver the finest, freshest ingredients available—creating economic growth throughout the local supply chain.

Through financial and technical support to these community entrepreneurs, bankers and their community development partners are creating vibrant places to live and work, as well as a pipeline of business clients.

Set your calendars for Oct. 16, and join the ABA Foundation for our fifth annual community development tour of Chicago!