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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 12:30 pm 
The idea of calling together an informal group of Grant County area people who are interested in investing money locally has been circulating for a few months. The basic premise behind this movement is that we are missing out on opportunities to put our money to work in our own community. Given the following facts -- that Wall Street type investing is mostly like gambling; that we generally have little control over how the folks we entrust our savings to speculate with our money; and that our money is not producing much in the way of associated benefits for our local economy -- the talk has been focusing on why we don't invest more locally and how can we start.

The group, which has been tentatively named the Gila Local Investment Forum, will meet to discuss the philosophy and practice of local investing, identifying means and opportunities to put more of our money to work in our community.

Some of the means that have been talked about include: buying into local companies through normal business organizational structures like Limited Liability Companies, S-corporations, or standard corporations (we can own our own evil empires!); working with local banks to facilitate more loans to area businesses and residents (using local money deposited in the banks and credit unions); how to do simple personal loans for real estate or business activities; establishing a revolving loan fund for targeted purposes; creating a financial support group for accessing grants, government loans and loan guarantees, and other financial services that are difficult for individuals to tap into; and anything else that Forum participants know about and want to share.

Cissy McAndrew, the Green Chamber of Commerce executive director, recently attended a BALLE conference (Business Alliance for Living Local Economies) in Bellingham, WA, where a focus was on putting the money of local people to work in their communities, and she will share what she learned there.

One piece of GLIF interactions would be to allow folks to propose business or investment opportunities to the group so that interested people can meet and get some chemistry happening. This is not intended to be a formal organization, it's just a way to allow folks to meet and discover new ways to participate in and grow a vibrant local economy. No politics allowed!

We are scheduling the first meeting of the GLIF for July 28, 6:00 - 7:00 PM, at Issac's back room.

In the meantime, please post your ideas and feedback here. Talk to your friends who might be interested. And get ready for a very interesting time!

You can also contact me directly at gordon.west@rtnewmexico.com or 575-537-3689.

 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:20 am 
The first investment forum was attended by about fifteen local folks. At least five more people called me to say that they wanted to come but had a scheduling conflict. The general format of the meeting was for each attendee to tell the others a little about themself and to describe their interest in local investing. Some were there with an interest in putting some of their money to work locally, some had ideas for possibilities for local investment, and all were wanting to learn more about what local investing means and how to do it.

Almost everyone had a bit of personal observation or philosophy to share about economics. Rather that try and report on what everyone said, I will report my own thoughts here, and rely on others to post replies with their thoughts.

Fundamentally, I see a healthy economy as much more than maximizing the making of money. Investing in Wall Street (a shortcut name for the stock market and other forms of essentially faceless financial entities) can only be about money. Yet our lives are about physical and social things - money is just a tool for easing value transactions. We are generally missing the opportunity to invest directly in our lives, instead of limiting investment to making money.

When one's focus is on making money from investments, the almost exclusive priority becomes maximizing the dollar return. There is little incentive or opportunity in the Wall Street game to do otherwise. This has become a cultural box, meaning that we do not think about the relationship between the money itself and what it is that we want money to do for us. Instead of mixing our finances with our lives, we keep them separate. Often, the way we gain satisfaction in our lives is to volunteer for good causes, or donate to them. But we rarely think that we can invest directly in the things that matter to us, and expect social, environmental, and economic returns as a result.

Instead of thinking about amassing wealth through investments (which forever afterward has to be protected), how about focusing on amassing happiness and stability? A curious psychological view of investment risk that I have observed is that we think Wall Street is a safer investment that Main Street (which I shall use to represent social, environmental, and economic investing). There could be a long discussion about why that is, but one reason is that high rates of dollar return are generally not possible with Main Street investments. In my opinion, high rates of dollar return indicate a serious embedded economic imbalance of some sort, where somebody wins big at the same time as somebody loses big. I see that local investments will probably not be dramatic dollar machines, but that does not mean that they are risky, especially considering that they should have social and environmental returns as well, which are what we want our money to buy in the end, anyway.

So my philosophical approach to local investing is to realize that we could be putting some of our money (or other resources), that we may already be spending in donations or volunteerism, to work in a more businesslike way in order to support a healthier and more self-sustaining community. We should also generate some modest financial returns in the process.

One idea presented at the meeting is to pull together a pool of money to put more solar energy generating capacity into our community. One of the biggest drawbacks to installing photovoltaic systems individually is that the high upfront cost, coupled with the generally low appraised value of such systems, make it difficult to finance installations. This reveals a typical quirk in the Wall Street system, where the potential return on investment isn't deemed to be high enough to justify the risk, even though the return on investment is guaranteed to happen whenever the sun is shining. Many attendees were interested in this idea of forming what would amount to a local solar energy company, especially if the fund could be stocked with IRA and 401K money. A meeting specific to discussing how that might work will be scheduled soon. Bruce McKinney introduced the idea, so I am volunteering him as the contact person for the followup meeting! Is that OK with you Bruce?

I offered another emerging investment opportunity in that Gila WoodNet (a nonprofit corporation) is in the process of letting its business operations (forest thinning, wood products manufacturing and sales) be taken over by Gila Wood Products LLC. Several new products and services are at the cusp of development, which should make GWP a strong performing for-profit business while maintaining its contributions to local social, environmental, and economic health. Gila Wood Products LLC is now open to new membership. A separate meeting to discuss the details will also be scheduled soon. If you are interested in learning more about GWP, post a comment here, or email or call me at 537-3689

Gordon West

 Author: jef
PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:51 am 
I was one of the people with a scheduling conflict (but didn't call) and look forward to another chance.

I'm definitely curious about the feasibility of pitching together to finance solar systems, and also having
a community conversation about using Kiva and other models of micro-financing.

Let us know, Gordon, as early as possible when there will be another opportunity to participate.

Thanks - Elizabeth

 Author: Bruce
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2011 5:42 pm 
Thanks for that summary, Gordon. Yes, I’m willing to be a moderator for a discussion of community solar energy investments. I’m going to start that discussion in a new topic called Community Solar Energy Investments.


 Author: Azima Lila Forest
PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2012 10:11 am 
I have made a construction loan to a local nonprofit community, and I would like to get my money out now. So we're looking for someone to loan $20,000 to the community so they can pay me back. The rate of interest would be somewhere between 5 and 8%, depending on the length of the loan, and would be paid back with monthly or yearly principal and interest payments. If you're interested, please email or call me, and I'll connect you with the person with whom you would actually arrange the details and make the loan agreement.

Thanks! Azima
azima@zianet.com or 575-574-7805

Azima Lila Forest

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