The HVADC Cultivator
Meet the People of HVADC:
Board Member Ann Finnegan
Ann Finnegan has served as a HVADC Board Member for five years. As the National Development Council (NDC)East Team Director/President of Community Impact Loan Fund she brings more than 30 years of lending, finance, and development experience to the board. NDC is a national nonprofit, founded in 1969. It works to fulfill its mission to increase the flow of capital for investment in low-income communities. NDC directs capital to support the development and preservation of affordable housing, the creation of jobs through training and small business lending and the advancement of livable communities through investment in social infrastructure.
Prior to rejoining NDC in 2019, Ann was a commercial and small business lender with Hudson Valley’s Kinderhook Bank, where she led the bank to nationwide recognition as a USDA guaranteed Business & Industry lender.
Born in Buffalo, Ann’s father’s work brought the family to Albany and her love of the Hudson Valley began to bloom. After studying business at Siena College and in rural southern France for a time, she went right to work in the field of economic development.
“I loved economic development immediately,” she says, “It felt meaningful.”
She started her career at NDC in 1986 and since that time, by design or happenstance, her work has continued to revolve around financing and small business development in either very urban or very rural areas, and seldom in between. In her early career she worked a lot and traveled the world a lot. Then she started a family, had a couple children, and traveled less. When the children started school, she was looking for something new. That’s when, in 2010, she met Bob Sherwood at Kinderhook Bank (now Community Bank System, Inc). Sherwood was then Kinderhook’s President, and the bank was looking to create their government-guaranteed lending program and brought Ann on to facilitate the shepherding of funding small businesses. The USDA programs were used specifically to support entrepreneurs in rural areas and food businesses throughout eastern New York state.
Ann met HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling not long after she began working in Columbia County, and their likeminded endeavors orbited for some time. Ann joined the HVADC Board of Directors in 2015. Her prior work with Kinderhook Bank and now back at NDC makes her an indelible asset to the board and the region’s agribusiness community.
“Ann brings a lot to the HVADC Board in both professionalism and personality,” said HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling, “Her sharp institutional and technical acuity is matched only by her personal generosity and an instinctive motivation to prove economic development is an exercise in compassion.”
“Farmers and agribusinesses have always undervalued themselves and their businesses,” Ann relates “We need to help them realize that their problems are not insurmountable. We’ve been seeing more people coming at farming from a business angle, which is vital. Making value-added farming and agribusiness sustainable is everything to me.”
She maintains that agribusiness needs to be treated as any other small businesses, and that “We need to make banks and lenders recognize their endeavors as viable businesses. HVADC has brought this idea to the forefront: if run properly, and with access to the same opportunities and resources (including technical assistance and expansion capital) as other small businesses, farms and agribusiness deserve the same consideration as other small businesses.”
The COVID-19 Pandemic has already and will continue to reshaping the economy. Some agribusinesses like dairies have been hit hard, others across the Hudson Valley are seeing increased patronage and profits, as consumers reconsider how they shop for food and recognize the preexisting value of the farms and food producers in their community. This has been due in large part to farmers and proprietors embracing online ordering like never before.
Ann says she’s proud of and encouraged by the work being done by agribusinesses to successfully weather the storm, but she is realistically wary of the pandemic’s looming economic impact. While the tech and outreach skills farmers and business owners are developing during the crisis will continue to serve them well, she doesn’t see those upgrades necessarily translating as value to prospective lenders we face together a new and challenging future in the months ahead.
“Farmers and small agribusinesses are going to be up against it, as always” She says. “Conventional lenders are risk-adverse on the best of days… and this isn’t the best of days. But I hope the current success a lot of folks are having at least gives a new sense of confidence that they “can play with the big dogs.” They adapted so quickly in response to Covid-19 challenges to date, and there’s a lot to be proud of. But there are clearly challenges ahead for the region, the state and the country as we regroup, reinvent, and move forward. As a member of the HVADC Board I am so honored to be part of the mix.”
For more information on the HVADC Board of Directors visit https://www.hvadc.org/our-team