Development Finance Initiative (DFI) featured in Coates Connection

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The following article appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Coates Connection:

Development Finance Initiative Helps Communities Secure Funding for Economic Development Projects

At first glance, Michael Lemanski may not seem like the adventure-seeking, daredevil type. However, when it comes to exploring abandoned buildings and ascending decrepit rooftops, this community and economic development professional enjoys a challenge. Lemanski has spent 10 years as a private developer helping lead a transformation in downtown Durham, but these days he is working with communities across North Carolina.

Lemanski leads the School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative (DFI), which helps local governments in North Carolina secure private investment for development projects in distressed areas. At the request of local leaders, Lemanski and the DFI team (see DFI: At a Glance for a list of School faculty and staff involved in DFI) have spent the last two years assessing the economic development needs of 27 North Carolina communities. The DFI team works closely with public officials on plans that help promote jobs, encourage economic development, and resurrect downtown buildings and residential areas.

“DFI’s focus is on providing the development and finance expertise necessary,” Lemanski explains. “My role is to help North Carolina communities properly assess the risks and create the right environment for private development to occur. Our mission is to help communities achieve their economic development goals.”

Tony Sears, Kinston town manager, worked with Lemanski over the last year on a land acquisition strategy to redevelop an old t-shirt factory while also expanding residential development to attract private investors. “Working with the DFI team has been easy,” says Sears. “They’ve brought numerous solutions to the table, and they will see the project through to completion.”

Lemanski is currently spending a lot of time in the City of Wilson, continuing to leverage public resources to attract private investment into distressed buildings and neighborhoods. “Engaging in these difficult projects is worth the risk,” he says, “because 20 years from now, I envision stronger and more vibrant communities as a result of DFI.”

DFI At a Glance

Purpose: Partnering with local governments to attract financial resources for public economic development and redevelopment projects

Service area: North Carolina

School of Government field of study: Community and Economic Development

Current number of DFI projects: 27

History: In response to requests from public officials for more assistance with public-private partnerships, School of Government faculty members established the Development Finance Initiative in 2010 with generous support from Local Government Federal Credit Union. DFI’s mission is to help build sustainable North Carolina communities.

Long-term impact: By facilitating a combination of public and private investment, DFI is helping improve the vitality and long-term sustainability of communities across the state.

DFI Team

Michael Lemanski, Director, Development Finance Initiative

Will Lambe, Director, Community and Economic Development Program

Jonathan Morgan, Associate Professor of Public Administration and Government

Tyler Mulligan, Associate Professor of Public Law and Government

Marcia Perritt, Project Manager

Christy Raulli, Analyst

Select DFI Projects

Kinston: Assessment of distressed properties along key commercial corridor; creation of property acquisition strategy and financing tools for redevelopment of target areas

Waynesville and Haywood County: Predevelopment for historic hospital property, including market analysis, programming, and finance options to attract private development partner

Brevard: Site analysis for locating a large manufacturer; assessment of finance tools to attract private investment into an economically distressed neighborhood

Wilmington: Predevelopment for city-owned parking garage, including market analysis, programming, and finance options to attract a private development partner

Tatum Isenberger is the Director of Corporate and Annual Giving at the School of Government

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