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USDA Supports Oweesta with RCDI Grant

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SEATTLE, WA  – This week, over 40 representatives from 20 Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) will participate in a Capital Access Convening in Seattle, Washington on May 23rd and 24th through First Nations Oweesta Corporation’s Native CDFI Capital Access Initiative, supported through the generosity of Northwest Area Foundation. The goal of the Native CDFI Capital Access Initiative is to enhance participating organizations’ capacity to secure capital, directly responding to unsatisfied financing demand within Indian Country.

The Access to Capital Convening is a two-day event that includes collaborative discussions on effective strategies for accessing capital and networking strategies with intentional partnering entities. The first day focuses on collaboration among peer organizations, learning from industry leaders, and navigating partnerships with foundations and investors. On the second day, the participating Native CDFIs will unite with national, regional, local foundations and investors, as well as nonprofit groups traveling from Hawaii. “We are honored to host an unprecedented event to bring Native CDFIs, Hawaiian nonprofit organizations, funders, and investors together, nurturing long-lasting relationships that increase capital access in Native communities,” says Chrystel Cornelius, Executive Director of First Nations Oweesta Corporation.
First Nations Oweesta Corporation is proud to partner with many strong organizations supporting Native communities, including a key partnership with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement/Pacific Island Philanthropy Connection. This event is also supported by Northwest Area Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation, KeyBank, Corporation for Enterprise Development, Administration for Native Americans, and others.

First Nations Oweesta Corporation was created 18 years ago to address the lack of capital and financial infrastructure holding back economic development in Native communities recognized by its parent organization, First Nations Development Institute. First Nations Oweesta Corporation’s mission is to provide opportunities for Native people to develop financial assets and create wealth by assisting in the establishment of strong, permanent institutions and programs that contribute to economic independence and strengthened sovereignty for all Native communities. For more information, visit

Founded in 1934 and based in St. Paul, MN, the Northwest Area Foundation supports organizations anchored in the culture of the people they serve and dedicated to expanding economic opportunity in under-resourced communities. Its grantees work to build on the entrepreneurial spirit, strong community ties, and untapped potential within communities of Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and rural areas. The work of grantees advances good jobs and financial capability across the Foundation’s region, which includes the eight states of Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, and more than 75 Native nations. For more information, visit


Stephanie Cote, Oweesta Communications Manager or 303.774.8838

Paul Bachleitner, Communications Director or 303.774.7836 x213

Oweesta Welcomes New Chief Financial Officer

First Nations Oweesta is pleased to announce that we have hired a new Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Florence Ludka, for the organization. Florence will be responsible for the oversight of all finance related activities and the management of finance staff.

As CFO and part of the senior leadership team, Ms. Ludka will work closely with colleagues to develop and implement forward looking strategic investment and asset management strategies, corporate policy, short and long term financial plans and projections, and development and monitoring of program and fund budgets.

Prior to joining the First Nations Oweesta team, Ms. Ludka worked for the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau (Traverse City Tourism) in Traverse City, Michigan for over 16 years as the Director of Finance and Technology. During her tenure at Traverse City Tourism, Ms. Ludka procured expertise and experience in non-profit accounting, compliance and auditing practices. In addition, Ms. Ludka possesses extensive IT experience in CRM/database management, administration, coaching and training.

Ms. Ludka holds an MBA from the University of Michigan, a Bachelor of Science in public accounting and an Associates of Science in technical accounting. Ms. Ludka completed her undergraduate studies at Lake Superior State University where she later returned as an adjunct accounting faculty member teaching accounting principles, intermediate accounting, auditing, advanced accounting and federal taxation. Currently, Ms. Ludka is in her second year of a six-year Ojibwe language pane immersion program.

Ms. Ludka is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan.

New Class of Opportunity Fellows Welcomed to Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, AL, March 8, 2017— BBVA Compass and Opportunity Finance Network on Tuesday welcome their inaugural class of 25 Opportunity Fellows to Birmingham for a three-day training session where they’ll explore how to lead the change necessary to give underserved communities equal access to capital. First Nations Oweesta Corporation’s Heather Rademacher Taylor is one of the professionals selected for the program

“We are honored to have Heather Rademacher Taylor selected to participate in this prestigious program,” said Chrystel Cornelius, Executive Director of First Nations Oweesta Corporation.

BBVA Compass and Opportunity Finance Network joined forces in October to develop the Opportunity Fellows Program. The program is designed to boost the leadership ranks and spur the transformation of Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, which are critical engines of opportunity in low-income communities. Nationally recognized experts in the field of community development chose the 25 Opportunity Fellows from nearly 100 highly qualified applicants, and together they represent emerging, mid-career and executive-level professionals from CDFIs across the country. Heather Rademacher Taylor was selected to participate in the Emerging level.

“This innovative and robust leadership program brings together participants with different levels of experience with a common goal: to increase opportunity for all people and in all communities across the country,” said Pam Porter, Executive Vice President, Strategic Consulting at OFN. “We congratulate the 25 Opportunity Fellows, and we thank BBVA Compass for recognizing the impact this program will have and for its generous support.”

The Opportunity Fellows Program provides nine months of training with world-class experts in leadership and racial equity from the University of Alabama Collat School of Business and Race Matters Institute. The program kicks off this week at the BBVA Compass headquarters in Birmingham, where participants will engage in interactive activities and experiences, and will learn from other leaders in microfinance. They will also spend time with experts to better understand the patterns and causes behind the growing inequity in racial and ethnic minorities, as well as tour the Innovation Depot business incubator.

“We could not be more proud of this leadership program, and of these participants,” said BBVA Compass Director of Corporate Responsibility and Reputation Reymundo Ocañas. “We know that by investing in their future, we’re investing in the future of all of our communities. These are the leaders of organizations who put capital to work directly in low- to moderate-income communities. The idea is to arm them with the tools and skills they need to flourish in this impactful field of community-oriented finance.”

A complete list of participants is available at:


About First Nations Oweesta Corporation
About First Nations Oweesta Corporation First Nations Oweesta Corporation was created 16 years ago to address the lack of capital and financial infrastructure holding back economic development in Native communities as recognized by its parent organization, First Nations Development Institute. First Nations Oweesta Corporation’s mission is to provide opportunities for Native people to develop financial assets and create wealth by assisting in the establishment of strong, permanent institutions and programs that contribute to economic independence and strengthened sovereignty for all Native communities. For more information, visit

About BBVA Compass
BBVA Compass is a Sunbelt-based financial institution that operates 672 branches, including 344 in Texas, 89 in Alabama, 75 in Arizona, 62 in California, 45 in Florida, 38 in Colorado and 19 in New Mexico. BBVA Compass ranks among the top 25 largest U.S. commercial banks based on deposit market share and ranks among the largest banks in Alabama (2nd), Texas (4th) and Arizona (5th). BBVA Compass was recently named Best Digital Bank in North America by global finance magazine Euromoney and the best regional bank in the South & West and best mobile app in Money magazine’s 2015-2016 list of the Best Banks in America. Additional information about BBVA Compass can be found at, by following @BBVACompassNews on Twitter or visiting

About OFN
Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), the leading national network of private financial institutions, creates growth that is good for communities, investors, individuals, and the economy. Members of OFN are community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that deliver responsible lending to help low-wealth and low-income communities join the economic mainstream. Through 2015 OFN’s network originated $48 billion in financing in urban, rural, and Native American communities. This financing has helped to create or maintain more than 1,044,000 jobs, start or expand nearly 191,000 businesses and microenterprises, and support the development or rehabilitation of nearly 1.5 million housing units and 9,800 community facility projects. For more information, visit