"We've had banks come to us and say, 'We love what you're doing. As soon as you come to Virginia or North Carolina or whatever, give us a call. We can't support you in that market,'" said Marten Jenkins of Natural Capital Investment Fund in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Either those banks don't have a "footprint" in West Virginia, he said, or they have minimum loan amounts too large for his clients. They include, for example, the owners of Renick Millworks in a sparsely populated Monroe County town on the state's southeast border with Virginia.
Renick Millworks is a small, family-owned company that reclaims wood to produce unique and antique wide-plank flooring, beams and timbers. Heavily invested in web-based marketing, it also sells old buildings and antique building products from around the country.
"They've created this incredible product and have been able to sell it all over the country," Jenkins said. "We have smart, passionate people here, and with a little assistance and some money, they can do a lot."
Moncrief's much older community development fund began in 1968 as an outgrowth of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty." He gets requests every day for as little as $500 and as much as $10 million from people who can't otherwise get a loan.
"There's no one who will finance a big piece of equipment unless it's a front-end loader for the coal industry," he said.
Someone has to, though. Where banks see balance sheets that don't hit a certain threshold value, lenders like Moncrief see a few jobs. Maybe a few dozen.
"The old community banker would say, 'Your credit score isn't so good, Joe, but I knew your daddy and your granddaddy, and we need your business here in town.' That's what we do," Moncrief said. "We have stepped into the shoes of the old-time community bank. We look at companies that aren't quite bankable."
Mike Hurley is grateful for that.
Today, Highlands Diversified Services has 260 employees, about 80 more than two years ago, and it's cranking out 2 million satellite dishes a year.
"Like most parts of Eastern Kentucky, jobs are really, really needed here," Hurley said, "and it's been a good thing for the community and a great thing for our company.
"You always have to reinvent. The needs change. The expectations of the customer change. The world economy itself changes."
Reinvention, Hurley said, requires money.
Moncrief and Kentucky Highland "were able to work with us because they understood our needs in this area, and they understood our company," he said. "At the time, I do not believe we could have gotten it anywhere else."