Stearns Bank Allocates $10M to ADC

Through a partnership with the nonprofit African Development Center, St. Cloud-based Stearns Bank is earmarking $10 million for making loans to African immigrants.

St. Cloud is the county seat of Stearns County, which saw an influx of German Catholic immigrants beginning in the 1850s. St. Cloud is now home to many Somali immigrants and the African Development Center has an office in the central Minnesota city. About 16.5% of St. Cloud’s population is Black, while 11.8% of the population is counted as foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As the demographics of Stearns and other central Minnesota counties have changed, Stearns Bank has taken outreach steps to better serve underbanked and new populations.

Stearns Bank hired Mohamed Farah in 2022 to work as a community development coordinator in a newly created job. Stearns Bank made this hire in collaboration with the African Development Center, which focuses on growing businesses, building wealth, and increasing investment in African communities in Minnesota. The $10 million loan initiative that Stearns Bank announced this week is designed to build on Farah’s work and the partnership previously established with the African Development Center. Beyond the $10 million allocated for loans, Stearns Bank said that it’s providing additional funding to the African Development Center to launch the loan program. The center will be charged with identifying loan opportunities, and then disbursing the loan funds to qualified borrowers.

“We’re committed to the mission of ADC and pledge to continue expanding our financial and resource support as a partner to increase financial access and empowerment in our communities,” Kelly Skalicky, president and CEO of Stearns Bank, said in a written statement. “Creating dynamic, forward-thinking partnerships like ours with ADC multiplies the opportunities for so many more in our communities and benefits us all.”

The African Development Center has a track record of micro-lending for small businesses. It also provides training and individual consultations on financial literacy, business development, and home ownership.

“Stearns Bank demonstrates that corporate social responsibility is not just about managing, reducing, and avoiding risk, it is also about creating opportunities,” Nasibu Sareva, CEO of the African Development Center, said in a written statement. “The additional resources that Stearns Bank is providing will play an important role in helping us expand the valuable services we’re providing to African communities in our state.”

Sareva joined the African Development Center in 2006 and has held multiple leadership positions. Skalicky had a legal career before joining Stearns Bank, which was founded by her father Norm Skalicky. She served as legal counsel for the bank before becoming president in 2017 and CEO in 2019. On a national level, Skalicky serves on the Minority Depository Institutions (MDI) Advisory Committee, whose members are appointed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. MDIs are important players in providing financial services to low- and moderate-income and minority communities.