Kerri Brittain Poteat – Class of 1998
Executive Director, VEDIC, Valdese Economic Development Investment Corporation

Starting one’s own business can be a daunting endeavor. It requires vision, courage, and true passion. It also requires capital. VEDIC, the Valdese Economic Development Investment Corporation, is a non-profit organization started by the Town of Valdese to assist the promotion and development of business in Burke and surrounding counties. The mission of VEDIC is to increase economic opportunity by providing loans to new businesses and to existing businesses that need a financial boost. Kerri Brittain Poteat is the executive director of VEDIC, and she takes pride in the accomplishments that the organization has made and the role that it plays in the area.

“VEDIC was established as part of the NC Rural Center’s NC STEP Program in 2009,” explains Kerri. “The organization’s purpose was to provide a comprehensive set of services to new and existing businesses in Valdese. The Valdese NC Step Committee received $125,000 from the Rural Center to be used for a revolving loan fund. VEDIC was created to administer the program and made the first loan in July 2009. In 2010, the Golden LEAF Foundation, through the Tier 1 Community Assistance initiative, allocated $250,000 for a revolving loan program that would be administered by VEDIC throughout Burke County. Countywide loans to businesses were first made in January 2011. In May 2012, VEDIC applied to the USDA Rural Business-Corporative Service (RBS) for an Intermediary Relending Program and was approved by USDA and allocated by VEDIC.”

Today, as a USDA Intermediary lender, VEDIC can make loans anywhere in North Carolina with a population of 50,000 or less but continues to concentrate its efforts in Western North Carolina, specifically, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, McDowell, and Rutherford Counties.

“Most startup businesses are not able to get bank funding because of the traditional banking requirements. We work with these businesses and partner with the Small Business Centers to assist with a business plan. A plan is so important. If the business meets our criteria, we are able to be more creative with our lending process and assist in their funding need. It is so exciting to see these local businesses grow and succeed. Our goal is to help them get to the point when they can qualify for traditional bank funding. Occasionally, we encounter a business that does not meet our criteria and we have to say no. That’s the hardest part of the job. Helping people find a way to achieve their dreams and be a part of their journey is truly a blessing."

“VEDIC does not provide grants; instead, we make loans to small rural businesses to promote economic growth in our area. Staying local helps us better serve the businesses by connecting them with local services that will help them grow. As part of the program, we provide these new businesses with technical assistance. For example, accounting, marketing -- whatever services they need -- and can facilitate coaches to help them learn all aspects of how to run a successful business. We also partner with the Chamber of Commerce and the municipality of the new business."

“I took the job at a time when VEDIC was in need of a full-time director, someone with banking experience. I had worked in traditional banking for many years, starting as a part time teller at the State Employees Credit Union and various positions at BB&T. After graduating from Appalachian, my goal was to become a lender. Ann Smith presented me with the opportunity to join First Citizens in Lenoir. After working there for a little over a year, I was promoted to bank manager.”

Kerri’s education involved earning a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration specializing in management through the distance learning program of Appalachian State. “It was a great program for me. I was able to work and stay close to home. It’s wonderful that universities now are providing more opportunities for people in all walks of life to pursue a degree.” The banking industry also offers a variety of licenses and certifications in a number of areas, and Kerri earned an investment license to help build her skills.

Like so many others, Kerri had a growing family and wanted to be closer to home “It was at the time when Gary Bowman was retiring from First Citizens in Valdese, and I was blessed with that opportunity. It was also during that time when Chuck Moseley, who played many important roles in the town of Valdese, asked if I would volunteer to serve on the loan review committee for VEDIC. I accepted and really loved the organization and what they were doing to help the community."

“My job at the bank was very stressful and had long, long hours. With two small children, I felt in my heart that I should look for something with a more flexible schedule. I knew that whatever job I took would involve a cut in pay, but I believed it would be worth it if I could have more quality time with my family. It all hinged as well on whether my husband, who also had a stressful job, would be able to find a better place to work. As it turned out, he did, and we all stepped out in faith and moved forward. We know that God had His hand in our transition, and it was an answer to our prayers. I have always enjoyed lending, and when I worked at the bank, I made loans to families and individuals. At VEDIC, I make loans to businesses. It is amazing to see the growth of VEDIC, the businesses served, and the number of jobs created. The VEDIC board of directors now has 22 members and is 100% municipality supported. All loan decisions are made locally, and our office is located in the Valdese Town Hall."

“My days at East Burke involved three years of cheerleading, which I enjoyed very much. My senior year, several of us decided not to cheer and be able to sit with our friends during the games. I am so glad I did! My advice to high school girls is to be yourself. Don’t let other people make you into someone you are not. Let your light shine as you are! Let God lead you and the perfect plan that He has for your life. His way is always best. Wear a comfortable prom dress. Laugh, smile, and enjoy every minute of every day. Pray and follow your heart."

“I also remember the great times I had in the youth group at Morganton First Church of God. Our youth leader, Scott Arnold, made such an impression on all of us. Find a youth group, they are the best!"

“We all have people who have made a difference in our lives. My hope is to give back and make a true difference in people’s lives and in our community, one business at a time.”

Published May, 2024

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