From the CEO

Message from the CEO

Cinnaire celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. In 1993, I was at a crossroads in my life personally and professionally when Jim Logue, then the Executive Director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), approached me about a business model to solve the lack of investor interest in affordable housing in Michigan. It would be a non-profit syndicator of affordable housing tax credits and he wanted me to be the founding executive director.

I wasn’t interested initially. I talked with Jeanne Peterson, then Director of Legal Affairs at MSHDA. We had been friends a long time and she knew the purpose I had been trying to find in my life. When she told me this work would take place in the most distressed communities, working with non-profits in communities promoting smaller scale multi-family developments while trying to serve special needs populations, she knew she hit my soft spot. I said yes, right then. The only problem was I hadn’t told my then fiancé Mary what I was thinking. Both of us were single parents just getting ready to blend two families and I was going to take a 50% pay cut. An interesting discussion took place … She knew me well enough to know this is where I could potentially find my purpose. She was all in and has played a huge part in the growth and success of this organization ever since.

So, on August 1, 1993, I walked into an old historical house in a tough area of Lansing to start pursuing this dream. I had a lot of time by myself to think. I finally had an opportunity to run a business based on how I thought a purposeful, positive company should exist. How would I do that? I decided on four basic principles. First, value the people that you hire as the most important asset, make them happy, listen to them, and be transparent.

Second, be a true partner to your partners. Be there in the good times but really be there during the bad times. Help them build their business. Third, take care of your investors. Treat their capital as if it was your own household money. Be transparent and deliver what you promise. Fourth and most important, truly care for the residents and workers who have an opportunity to live in a safe, decent, and affordable home and work in a stable employment opportunity.

As a result of these principals, we have gone places few saw opportunity in and we made transformational impact. We listen to partners, investors, and residents to identify gaps in making communities healthy. To do this well, we operate locally. That’s another reason we’ve been around for 25 years.

We are unlike many in the CDFI world in that we provide a wide array of programs that support a holistic approach to the development of communities. We believe staying diverse, coupled with our founding principles to always focus on people, will sustain us long into the future. One can never become complacent with status quo. We want to be on the leading edge of what is to come to make communities healthy places to live.

It is our Why at Cinnaire. It has been our Why since the beginning. We believe that all people deserve the opportunities provided by living in healthy communities. Former MSHDA Executive Director, HUD Assistant Secretary and my personal mentor, Terry Duvernay, said it in even simpler terms, “Remember, it’s all about the people.”

Here’s to the next 25 years.

Take care,

Mark

Mark’s Profile