President Obama wants his advice

July 1, 2013 

Job: President, Chicago Community Loan Fund

Outlook: "I hope to serve effectively to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate Americans."

Former East St. Louisan Calvin L. Holmes was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to the Community Development Advisory Board in Washington, D.C. Holmes, a 1982 Cahokia High School graduate, has served as the President of the Chicago Community Loan Fund for the past 15 years. He recently spoke with business writer Will Buss about his new role:

How did you react to your new appointment?

"Being appointed by the President to the board is a tremendous honor. I am deeply humbled by the appointment and I hope to serve effectively to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate Americans."

What does the advisory board do?

"It is charged with overseeing a unit of the U.S. Treasury Department called the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund). This board advises the CDFI Fund on policies and program priorities. The CDFI Fund is an essential federal partner in the community development finance industry, which is a multi-billion dollar network of for-profit and not-for-profit banks, loans funds, credit unions, venture capitalist funds and micro-lenders who invest in lower wealth people and places to bring them into the mainstream economy."

What lead you toward this field?

"It's hard to say. Maybe it's because my mother worked for a model cities program in East St. Louis, one of the community redevelopment and community renewal programs in the '70s. My dad was kind of a community activist in East St. Louis and worked with a breakfast program in the neighborhood where I grew up. Being exposed to that as a young kid helped me get a sense of doing this type of work. I majored in African American and Urban Studies as an undergrad and had more exposure to it there."

Where had you worked prior?

"After college, I had stint as transportation planner for the city of Chicago working in major rapid transit programs as a budget analyst. Then I went back to grad school at Cornell and got master's degree in urban regional planning and real estate finance. Then after grad school, I took jobs in front line property management for affordable housing in Baltimore. Then in 1995, I went back to Chicago and started out as a loan officer here in Chicago with the Community Loan Fund and eventually in 1998 I was promoted to president."

What attracted you to your current job?

"There are so many things it's a challenge to chose one. But I greatly enjoy that CCLF lets me work with small for-profit and not-for-profit community organizations, providing them with access to capital and technical assistance. We were particularly proud of being a part of helping create communities where people thrive. Ones that have high quality housing, ample good and services, healthier food options, locally accessible jobs, compelling recreation and entertainment options and are clean and safe. That has been especially rewarding."

What will be most rewarding about your work on the Community Development Advisory Board?

"Collaborating with my fellow board members, the White House, and the CDFI Fund to leverage federal policy and program priorities for the CDFI industry so that we can help lift more less fortunate Americans out of the Great Recession which has not ended for so many."

Contact reporter Will Buss at or 239-2526.

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