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Lancaster nonprofit to invest up to $5M in living-wage jobs

A Lancaster-based nonprofit plans to sink money into businesses that pledge to create living-wage jobs in Lancaster County.

Community First Fund will invest in businesses that are committed to providing jobs that pay at least $15 per hour, said Dan Betancourt, Community First’s president and CEO.

Community First, which provides loans and other resources for under-served communities in about 13 counties across the state, hopes to raise $5 million for what it is calling the Grow Jobs for Lancaster Fund.

The goal is to create 300 living-wage jobs in Lancaster County.

Businesses can apply for funds the same way they apply for any other loan at Community First, Betancourt said.

For now, Community First is going through its existing applications to see if any organization that has already applied for services qualifies for funding from the new initiative, which launched on Thursday.

Applicants, aside from committing to pay at least $15 per hour, should also have about $100,000 in sales and four or more employees, Betancourt said.

The Grow Jobs for Lancaster Fund was revealed at Community First’s annual Friends of the Fund Luncheon event in downtown Lancaster.

The luncheon highlights Community First’s ongoing work in the midstate. In 2016, Community First gave $12 million to new businesses, which created more than 500 permanent jobs, Betancourt said Thursday.

Community First also announced Thursday that it has already received a donation of $1 million toward its new fund from BB&T Bank.

The money comes from the BB&T Economic Growth Fund, which BB&T created when it acquired Susquehanna Bancshares Inc. in September of 2015. The fund was designed to improve the standard of living and economic health of Lancaster County.

The BB&T Economic Growth Fund is a corporate-advised fund housed at the Lancaster County Community Foundation. It had $10 million available to start, but has since given about $4 million to local businesses or initiatives, including The Grow Jobs for Lancaster Fund.

“We look at this as an investment in our community,” said Craig Kauffman, BB&T’s Central Pennsylvania Region president.

Lenay Ruhl

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