Let’s say you have an idea for a new economic development project. What do you need to know? Maybe you’re an entrepreneur who wants to launch a small business, or a policymaker looking to develop an affordable housing project. To get your idea off the ground, some of your initial questions might be, Where’s the nearest lender to support my project? Do I live in an area that’s eligible for federal tax incentives for economic development? Have similar projects received funding from the federal government? For Indian Country stakeholders, a new tool from the Center for Indian Country Development (CICD) can help identify the financial institutions and federal economic development resources in their area.
The Native American Funding and Finance Atlas provides easy-to-use, regularly updated geographic data on federal programs, lending activity, and financial institutions in and around Indian Country. (To represent Indian Country geographically in the Atlas, we use the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Areas, which we discuss further below.) Users can zoom in on their communities to learn about opportunities to access capital and credit and to see examples of existing loans and investments.
The Atlas also facilitates geographic comparisons. Lack of access to credit and financial services has posed a barrier to economic development in Indian Country overall, and especially in Native communities with small populations. The new tool enables users to concretely explore what economic development resources are available in their communities—and in those next-door.
Understanding the tool
The Atlas aggregates up-to-date, publicly available U.S. data on the locations of commercial banks and credit unions, certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), recipients of business loans issued by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and the geographic areas eligible for a wide variety of tax-incentive programs designed to spur economic development. The tool also displays local concentration of small business and small farm loans reported under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Resources are displayed on a map interface developed by PolicyMap. Data can be viewed by American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Areas as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, along with counties or census tracts.
CICD has customized the Atlas to help Indian Country stakeholders answer a variety of their most-pressing economic development questions. Users can learn about the types of financial institutions located in their area and see examples of specific loans and projects administered by the federal government. Entrepreneurs and small business supporters can find the locations of SBDCs, which are key, SBA-run sources of counseling and training to support business start-ups and expansions. For some types of investments, such as small business and small farm loans and New Markets Tax Credits, users can determine the average investment amount in their area.
One of the Atlas’ most valuable features might be its ability to support local comparisons. Data on federal economic development and lending programs are provided for all areas in the United States. This feature enables users to see the prevalence of specific programs both within and outside of Indian Country geographies.
Digging into the data
Atlas users choose the information they want to display. To that end, we provide brief explanations of the specific data available in the Atlas below. Users can find additional details in the tool’s source links.
All banks and branches, credit unions, and certified CDFIs in the United States appear in the Atlas. Of particular interest to Indian Country stakeholders are Native American Financial Institutions, which provide Native-focused access to banking services and credit. The Atlas can be used to locate these banks, credit unions, and loan funds that are owned by or primarily serve American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian individuals and communities.
Federal lending programs support economic development by providing financing for small businesses, farms, new construction, rehabilitation of existing spaces, and a variety of other uses. The Atlas provides information on several important federal lending programs. For example, users can view individual loans awarded through SBA programs, including 7(a), 504, and Paycheck Protection Program loans. For each loan, details about the borrower are included along with the loan size, date, term, initial interest rate, and originating lender. Users can also use the Atlas to explore the average dollar amount of small business loans and small farm loans reported under the CRA in their community compared to in other areas.
The Atlas also aggregates information on local investments financed through the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Program, which was established by the U.S. Congress in 2000 to encourage new investments in distressed areas. Previous research by CICD has found that NMTC investment remains relatively low in Indian Country. Users can use the tool to understand whether their community has received NMTC investments, the types of investments it has received, and how that compares to nearby communities.
Federal tax-incentive programs are an important source of capital for low- and moderate-income communities. The Atlas displays data on local eligibility for a variety of federal economic development programs and projects, including Qualified Opportunity Zones, NMTC investments, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Multifamily Housing sites, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Multifamily Housing locations, and Historic Tax Credit Projects. It also shows the census tracts where bank activities are eligible for consideration under the CRA and geographies identified as CDFI investment areas.
If a policymaker is interested in the extent to which their community has benefitted from the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program and how that benefit compares to those in neighboring areas, they can use the Atlas to view the locations and details of individual LIHTC projects. While past CICD work has found that LIHTC projects in tribal areas create fewer rental units than projects in other areas on average, the Atlas supports additional comparisons among individual American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.
Depending on your needs, understanding resources in the context of distinctive geographic areas may be important. Maybe you want to look at the number of SBA 504 loans given to entrepreneurs located in different Hawaiian home lands, or see whether one Alaska Native Village statistical area has benefitted as much from a federal economic development program as a neighboring area. CICD has tailored the Atlas so a user can view data in relation to defined geographic boundaries, including Indian Country geographies, census tracts, and counties.
Indian Country boundaries visible on the map reflect American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian (AIANNH) Areas as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. This definition includes several types of Native legal and statistical geographies but does not comprehensively represent the locations of all Native communities. Details about AIANNH Areas can be found in the Census Bureau’s technical documentation.
Creating custom maps
Step 1: Zoom in on your community
The first step in using the Atlas is to zoom in on your community of interest. Click and drag to move around on the map and use the scroll bar on your mouse to zoom in and out. You can also zoom in on a Native geography of interest by picking “AIANNH Area” under “Location” next to the search bar. A drop-down menu listing the names of all Native areas in the dataset will appear. Select the area you want to view and click the orange magnifying glass icon to zoom in on it.
Step 2: Add Indian Country boundaries
Once you locate your community of interest, click on the “New map” button at the top left of the map and select the “American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian (AIANNH) Areas” layer under “Boundaries” at the bottom of the drop-down menu. This will identify the names and exact locations of the community’s borders. Tip: To most easily view data in the context of Indian Country geographies, remove the default layer that shades in Indian Country areas once you have selected the layer under “Boundaries.” To remove the shaded layer, click the “X” associated with that layer in the upper right of the map.
Step 3: Select programs and institutions of interest
Once you’ve added the boundaries, use the menu under the “New map” button to add data layers for the federal programs, financial institutions, and lending activities you’d like to view. Any layer you add will appear in a list on the right side of the map. To remove a layer, click the “X” next to it in this list. In the following image, we’ve displayed two types of SBA loans—7(a) loans and 504 loans—in and around the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River reservations in South Dakota.
Step 4: Hover over individual data points to learn more
Once you add a layer, use your mouse to hover over the map and learn more about each data point. In the map of 7(a) and 504 loans shown in Step 3, you could click on the blue and purple diamonds to learn about individual loans. If you’ve chosen to view bank branch offices, click on the icon of a specific location to learn about its characteristics. If you’ve chosen to view the average amount of small business loans awarded in each county, hover over an individual county to see its average loan amount, as shown in the following image.
Step 5: Make comparisons
A key feature of the tool is its ability to support geographic comparisons. If you want to compare investments in your county to those in a neighboring county, for example, select the “Counties” layer under “Boundaries.” Data can also be visualized by census tracts and, as described above, Indian Country geographies.
Supporting economic development in Indian Country
The Atlas joins a suite of data tools and resources provided by CICD. These tools reflect CICD’s efforts to empower Indian Country with the data needed to make informed economic decisions and, ultimately, strengthen economic self-determination and well-being. All Center for Indian Country Development data initiatives are guided by Principles for Research and Data Use intended to honor tribal data sovereignty and governance. We hope the Native American Funding and Finance Atlas helps you answer important questions—and, when there appear to be gaps, raise the questions that need to be asked.
Matthew Gregg is a senior economist in Community Development and Engagement, where he focuses on research for the Center for Indian Country Development. He has published work on historical development in Indian Country, Indian removal, land rights, and agricultural productivity.
Caryn Mohr is a writer/analyst for the Federal Reserve’s Center for Indian Country Development, where she contributes to the team’s research, policy, and engagement work and creates content and communications that support economic development in Native communities.
Vanessa Palmer is the data director for the Federal Reserve’s Center for Indian Country Development (CICD), where she leads efforts to collect, harmonize, and sustainably manage research-ready data in support of economic self-determination in Indian Country. In addition, she uses statistical tools and data visualization to support CICD’s applied research work.