As rural southwestern Pennsylvania lost manufacturing jobs in the 1990s, community leaders turned to tourism as a potential economic driver. But access to capital was a major roadblock for the region’s fledgling tourism sector, recalls David Kahley, CEO of The Progress Fund.
“If we wanted to grow the industry, we needed to start our own bank to fund a new wave of rural-based tourism businesses,” he recalls. “In 1997, Karen Post, the other co-founder, and I started The Progress Fund to make those loans. In essence, we took on the mission to grow this industry one business at a time.”
Since then, The Progress Fund, based in Greensburg, has made 455 loans totaling $56.5 million to 276 small businesses including restaurants, outdoor outfitters, campgrounds, B&Bs, farms, wineries and distilleries. The Fund has also expanded its mission to support local food producers, trails and related real estate initiatives in order to maximize tourism opportunities. Read more.