CLEVELAND — Donald Laster knows houses, from the foundation to the attic, and from the electric wiring to the heating and cooling system. He’s been building, remodeling and selling homes in the greater-Cleveland area for three decades. 

What You Need To Know

  • A Northeast Ohio company is investing in the revitalization of underserved communities

  • They’re empowering and working with minority contractors to get the job done

  • Nine minority contractors are signed up to participate in the first cohort of Contractors on the Rise

“I love houses,” Laster said. “You got to love what you do, and I love kitchens and bathrooms, and I try to do the best job I can.”

Although he is no stranger to fixing up old houses, he is working on the first house he has been able to purchase and remodel with the help of Contractors on the Rise, a new program launched by Village Capital Corporation, a subsidiary of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

The program works with minority contractors to fix up blighted properties. 

Village Capital president Dione Alexander said it is an overdue and necessary investment in minority contractors and disinvested communities. 

“The first bottom line is that we want to reduce blight neighborhoods,” Alexander said. “The second bottom line is we want to build the capacity and profitability of minority and female contractors, and the third bottom line is that we want to create generational wealth through home ownership.”

Laster is a part of the very first contractors on the rise cohort which gives each participating contractor as much as $200,000 in financing. He said he receives from them, the financial backing he hasn’t been able to get from traditional banking institutions that either deny him for loans, or offer him loans with extremely high interest. 

“What they do for you is what the banks won't do for you,” he said. “We, as minorities, we can't go to Uncle Bob, and get fronted a million dollars to start our business just because uncle bob believe in us.”

Alexander said the support contractors receive through the contractors on the rise isn’t only financial. 

“We take all the contractors through capacity building,” Alexander said. “How do you have good books and records and accounting systems? How do you find an attorney? What do you need your attorney for? How can you improve your marketing, your digital footprint? It's is a comprehensive approach to building better minority owned contracting businesses that ultimately will grow and can go back to traditional banking sources for even more capital and investment.”

When Laster found this house located in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood, he said it was in need of a full rehab, and now with a totally new interior it has been sold. He’s happy to have had the opportunity to turn this house into someone’s home.

“It’s very important that we serve our community and this is one way that I serve my community by rehabbing houses and building new houses,” Laster said.

Alexander said it’s all for the community.

There is so much opportunity in our neighborhoods, and so much talent. Sometimes people just need a few extra tools and resources to make it work,” Alexander said.