Foundation Invests in Smart Shelf

Posted on February 12, 2019

Crain’s Detroit Business has shown the spotlight on the Thumb Coast region again this week in a special report  out now. One of five great stories you can read highlights a newer company called Smart Shelf, which will benefit from a $300,000 investment by the Community Foundation. 

”Investing for a profit is part of our business model,” said Mike Cansfield, Chair of the Community Foundation Board. “Just because the Community Foundation is a public charity does not mean that we can’t or shouldn’t invest to grow our financial resources.  In order to provide grants and grow our impact, we must invest for a profit,” Cansfield added.

The Community Foundation is the largest grantmaking organization in the Thumb Coast region, and in 2018 provided more than $2.8 million in total grants. However, the Foundation has close to $75 million in assets under management, including land, buildings and significant investment holdings. To complement its grant making programs the Foundation occasionally makes mission-related investments, which expand and multiply regional impact. 

Mission-Related Investments seek a profitable return on the money invested as well as some kind of local community impact.  “Unlike grants, we expect our money back and then some on these occasional Mission-Related Investments,” Cansfield added.

Mission investing addresses the Foundation’s number one strategic priority of “Community & Economic Prosperity.”  Funding for mission investing comes from two areas; the Foundation’s main investment pool as well as the assets in the Community Capital Club (C3) .

Similar to “angel investor” groups, C3 aims to support projects that build community capital and enhance quality of place. In doing so, C3 considers supporting the efforts of early-stage companies and/or growing ventures located within the Thumb Coast region. They are also interested in supporting opportunities for business growth, development and expansion within our downtowns if they add to the vibrancy and prosperity of the community.

Most recently, the Foundation’s Finance & Investment Committee along with C3 jointly approved making the $300,000 investment into Smart Shelf.  The company has a unique product, huge global market potential and most importantly the potential for job growth and new manufacturing in this region. 

Under its Mission Investing Program, the Foundation is probably most well-known for a $750,000 loan which helped support the construction of new student dorms for SC4 in downtown Port Huron.  Those dorms have proved very popular among the college students and have brought more young people into downtown living.

The Foundation has also made low interest loans to support improvements to the Atrium Café, Casey’s Pizza & Sub Shop and field improvements for the Emmett Little League.

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