Empowerment and Equitable Lending: Barber Continues Fight for South Carolina Communities

Nate Barber Continues Fight for South Carolina Communities
The passion in Nate Barber’s voice is apparent when he talks about the work of community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, which provide equal access to funding for those often overlooked by traditional financial institutions. It’s why he made sure his bank, SouthState Bank, partnered with a CDFI years ago and why he was the ideal choice to lead that same organization beginning in 2021.

After 17 years with SouthState, Barber planned to sit back and enjoy retirement with his grandchildren. The South Carolina Community Loan Fund (SCCLF) board, however, had other ideas. They asked him to become their next CEO and join them in empowering small business owners and strengthening communities through equitable lending and technical assistance.

“To be able to play a role with the SCCLF at this point in my career made it difficult to say no,” Barber says.

In its 18-year history, the SCCLF has financed millions in loans for the completion of community and medical facilities in rural counties, provided financing for minority- and women-owned businesses, and financed construction of healthy food retail in the state’s food deserts. It’s very likely one of your favorite retailers or restaurants got its start with support from SCCLF.

Though many agencies focus only on providing housing for minority groups, the role of a CDFI goes far beyond to reach future generations. A bank or credit union might have restrictions on who it can lend to, but a CDFI has flexibility built into its model, allowing borrowers with limited funds or collateral to secure a loan.
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I saw the potential of an organization like this, having seen the limits of traditional bank lending. Other banks followed SouthState, but we were the first.

- Nate Barber, South Carolina Community Loan Fund CEO

“Financing community projects and loans for businesses is about increasing the wealth and opportunity for people of color,” Barber explains. “It’s the opportunity to make their own wealth for long-term sustainability.”

Barber served as SouthState’s first community development officer before moving onto the larger role of Community Reinvestment Act officer. Upon learning about the valuable work of the newly launched SCCLF in 2004, he recalls “sticking my neck out” by advocating for the bank to support the loan fund’s mission of expanding opportunities for underserved borrowers. His perseverance paid off when SouthState became the first bank to invest money in SCCLF.

“I saw the potential of an organization like this, having seen the limits of traditional bank lending,” he says. “Other banks followed SouthState, but we were the first.”

The partnership between the two organizations continues today. SouthState’s Charleston Regional President, Thomas Anderson, serves as the Board Chair for SCCLF. Barber tapped Anderson in 2009 to volunteer with the SCCLF, and he has continued to serve the organization in roles of increasing responsibility since.

“Seeing the tangible impact it has on my community has been very engaging,” Anderson says.

Community Development Officer Sedrick McCallum serves as the SCCLF Treasurer and Loan Committee Chair. Thanks to McCallum’s ongoing involvement, the loan fund recently received a $10,000 donation earmarked for technical assistance. Borrowers can get help with loan applications, starting their business and other entrepreneurial classes. “This organization is important to me because I tried being a small business owner,” McCallum said. “It’s hard. As a result, I became a strong advocate for CDFIs.”

“This technical assistance is vital. Small businesses often close not because the idea fails, but because the owner didn’t have the knowledge or resources for the day-to-day operations,” Barber adds. “This ongoing relationship between SouthState and SCCLF shows my initial push was correct. I’m proud to say my bank is still involved in supporting a CDFI.”

As he continues to settle into his new role at SCCLF, Barber looks to expand the organization’s usage of new market tax credits for larger projects and low-income housing tax credits to fill needs around South Carolina.

CDFI lending has grown to a $100 billion industry nationwide.

The South Carolina Community Loan Fund creates jobs, provides housing opportunities, supports new business and much more. Read about its impact on the state.

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