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High River Flood & Microfinance Update
Category: Microcredit | By Steve, 4-Jun-2017 | Viewed 1196  Comments 0 | Source Maureen McManus

Rotary Global Grant benefits economy of flood-stricken High River

by Maureen McManus
Rotary Club of High River

High River Reporter Maureen McManus

Following the devastating flood in southern Alberta in June 2013, the Rotary Club of High River obtained a Global Grant from Rotary International (RI), having raised $300,000 overall. This funded a project that focused on business renewal in High River by granting microcredit loans and providing business coaching. Rotary clubs in Alberta's District 5360 and across the continent supported this project by providing seed money.

High River
This was the first time RI had given a Global Grant to a district in Canada. Therefore, the High River club was required by RI to have a Rotary partner outside Canada. Through past District 5360 Governor Pat Killoran, a group of American Districts, led by the Rotary Club of Allen Park, Michigan, USA, District 6400 agreed to become a partner, donating U.S. $50,000. As a result, the Rotary Club of High River received approval of the RI Global Grant in April 2014.

The project was subsequently managed by Community Futures Highwood after consultation with its general manager, Okotoks Rotarian John Lockhart. 

Community Futures
According to Community Futures Highwood, the project's objective was to strengthen the capacity of flood-impacted communities to rebuild the economy following the June 2013 disaster. Through RI, the Rotary Club of High River provided $60,000 for economic capacity building and $240,000 for microcredit loans to High River. The Province of Alberta provided an additional $150,000 for economic recovery work for High River and other area towns.

Business planning was the primary focus of the training and one-on-one coaching sessions. Also in High River, strategic planning facilitation and organizational support was provided to the Town of High River Business and Tourism Advisory Committee. There was also collaboration with the High River & District Chamber of Commerce.

Funds from Rotary for microcredit loans supported business owners with their struggle for funds to recover from the disaster.

From April 2014 to October 2015, 29 business workshops attracted 336 attendees. Thirty-four clients were coached. Six business loans were advanced.  From November 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016, the plan was to hold eight workshops for 45 attendees, and coach six more clients. Two loans were advanced and one loan was paid out. The project's workshops and coaching actually ended in February 2016.

At February 2017, loan accounts were ongoing. Two loans had been paid back, and five were active.

The microcredit loans are for five years with flexible repayment terms in year one, including zero interest. The maximum amount for a loan is $30,000. When five per cent interest is applicable, this rolls back to the business-renewal fund.

Community Futures Highwood will continue to watch for opportunities to put funds to work in High River.

Maureen McManus
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