On behalf of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (AICCW) and First American Capital Corporation (FACC), we wish to congratulate and amplify the recognition of May yer Thao, Executive Director of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce (HWCC) on her recent Sacagawea Award presented by Professional Dimension. The Sacagawea Award recognized May yer’s pioneering leadership, illustrated through her career accomplishments, untiring commitment to community, and support of women’s advancement opportunities statewide.
May yer’s leadership characteristics, and commitment to the HWCC mission and community members served have been evident over the past five years that the HWCC and FACC have worked as strategic partners in the Wisconsin Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) industry – the HWCC launched a revolving loan fund several years ago to provide access to business loans for Wisconsin’s Hmong and Southeast Asian entrepreneurs who do not qualify for business bank loans, similar to the statewide work of FACC as a Native CDFI first launched in 2002. The FACC provided loan portfolio boarding and related services for the HWCC until 2018 when HWCC built sufficient internal capacity to manage standalone revolving loan fund management systems similar to FACC.
Based upon many years of mutually beneficial cooperative working initiatives, the HWCC and FACC decided to partner in 2018 in a collaborative application to the Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital Program, entitled the Wisconsin Community Lending And Networking Strategies (WI-CLANS) pilot project. This innovative proposal – funded in late 2018 – is designed to add shared professional staff capacity among both organizations which will result in significantly expanded loan products and business management development services delivered statewide to our non-competing clientele. Although the Hmong, Southeast Asian and Native American populations have considerably different histories, there are similar cultural and familial foundations, and significantly similar entrepreneurial experiences and challenges with accessing bank loans and responsive business management capacity building services.
Part of the rationale for the HWCC-FACC collaboration is based upon our similar missions, geographic location/proximity, established trust and history of working collaboratively as CDFIs. These factors provided an opportunity to pursue highly competitive CDFI industry support that neither organization would have qualified for alone. The FACC looks forward to work with the visionary leadership of May yer Thao – underscored by the Sacagawea Award - as we collaborate on the WI-CLANS pilot project as an approach to provide ever increasing innovation, scale and impactful resources to the entrepreneurs and business owners we collectively serve throughout Wisconsin!