Steve Saltzman, right, and Mukhtar Idhow, owner of Juba International Grocery in Manchester, a business with which the NH Community Loan Fund is working. (Photo by Christine Carignan)
Steve Saltzman grew up in North Carolina in a segregated town in economic decline after the tobacco industry left. “People were afraid to come out after dark. There was a lot of crime and persistent unemployment,” he says.
Saltzman moved away to go to college and didn’t return for 20 years, working first as a journalist and then joining a tech startup. That changed when Eric Stein, then COO of the Center for Community Self-Help, asked him to tour his old neighborhood. Stein showed him how the center’s investment transformed the neighborhood and then asked Saltzman who he thought had done more for the community—his tech firm or the nonprofit. “I didn’t take it as a rebuke but as a challenge,” Saltzman says.
Since that pivotal moment, Saltzman has spent his career dedicated to transforming communities and the lives of the most vulnerable residents in them. His jobs have included working at Self-Help Credit Union in North Carolina for nearly 13 years and then as CEO of the CLIMB Fund, a nonprofit based in Charleston, SC.
During his two-year tenure at CLIMB, the organization more than doubled its portfolio while increasing lending for affordable housing for the Hispanic community, investment in Black-owned businesses, and creating a loan fund to serve employed workers from neighborhoods with the country’s highest eviction rates.
Saltzman says while working in North Carolina, he and his colleagues often spoke about the innovative work of the NH Community Loan Fund, which helps residents of manufactured housing purchase their mobile home parks. (There hasn’t been a single default in 37 years.) “I come from the school of thought that home ownership is a path to building multi-generational wealth and community stability,” he says.
Saltzman says NH is unique as 30% of manufactured housing here is self-owned. So, when Juliana Eades retired as CEO of the NH Community Loan Fund in 2020, Saltzman was eager to join the organization as its new president and CEO in 2021.
He says another feature that differentiates the NH Community Loan Fund from other community development financial organizations is that the funding comes from 700 individuals, families and nonprofits rather than from federal funds. “It’s a very New Hampshire solution,” he says.
Under Saltzman, the NH Community Loan Fund partnered with Manchester NAACP and launched the Community-Driven Economic Empowerment pilot program in Manchester in January through a $40,000 grant from Bank of America, to help Black and Brown business owners gain equal access to capital and engage with lenders.
When not at work, Saltzman says he’s been enjoying the natural beauty of NH. “Practically every moment I haven’t been at work or sleeping, I have been outside on trails mountain biking, hiking, skiing,” he says. “This is without question the friendliest place I have ever lived.”