Reflections on new lanes for AICCW, FACC
Gary Mejchar, First American Capital Corporation, Inc. Co-Executive Director/Development and Acting Director of American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, Inc., reflects on the changes at AICCW-FACC leading to the 2022 decision to establish clearly delineated mission lanes and website identities for the two organizations.
After several years of volunteer work in the late 1980’s by Native American leaders located in the Milwaukee area to provide advocacy and a voice for the growing number of Native-owned businesses, the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (AICCW) was incorporated in 1991. Some 10 years later, another group of AICCW Board Members and Native Business Owners addressed barriers to accessing bank loans by formally established the AICCW Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) — with seed funds from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, which is now known as the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
AICCW Executive Director Craig Anderson, who worked tirelessly to innovate and resource Wisconsin Indian Country, moved forward with an application for the AICCW RLF to become a certified Native Community Development Financial Institution (NCDFI) with the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The AICCW successfully received initial seed funding from the CDFI Fund for demand study research and other preliminary operating functions, as AICCW positioned for NCDFI certification. During that review period, the AICCW was directed by The CDFI Fund analysts to launch a separate nonprofit — what became First American Capital Corporation, Inc., which was incorporated in 2002 — to facilitate the certification of a standalone RLF and facilitate federal compliance reporting as Wisconsin's first NCDFI. The AICCW and FACC subsequently developed separate websites for these organizations, which remained in place until about 2014 when FACC operations and funding streams began growing substantially.
Between 2007 and 2010, the AICCW had won several substantial Wisconsin Department of Transportation Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Support Services contracts with significant deliverables to assist a growing number of certified Native Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (NDBEs) compete and prosper in the road construction and professional services industries. This period also began the capitalization on incredible growth opportunities associated with the FACC NCDFI designation — at that time both AICCW and FACC were operated by essentially the same staff members.
Mainly for efficiency, the AICCW and FACC websites and associated communications systems were merged into one platform in about 2014 and remained so until recently when it became clear that readers, clients and stakeholders could no longer clearly differentiate between these two non-profit legal entities — a situation we did not want to continue with funders and prospective funders, stakeholders and most importantly those seeking AICCW services or FACC loan products.
A combination of factors including the passing of Craig Anderson in 2020 — the long-time champion and leader of AICCW — the pandemic and an emerging new economic and pandemic recovery reality, have prompted both AICCW and FACC to now reestablish clear and separate mission lanes, with the goals of communicating the differences between these strong separate 501(c)(3) nonprofits, with separate rebranded website/social and communications channels, while emphasizing the areas of leveraging and bridging AICCW and FACC products and services — to best serve the economic and business development interests and needs of Wisconsin Native Nations, Native businesses, Tribal Enterprises and tribal members statewide.
Keep your eyes open — the new, separate websites will soon launch.