By Dennis Byrne
We work in them or we work near them. We live in them or we live near them. They are underserved communities – places where times are tough, jobs are few, and many small businesses struggle.
Underserved communities were hit disproportionately hard by this recession and need our help and focus more than ever.
But how can we get small businesses, the “backbones” of these communities, back on their feet to perform the vital role they play in these economies?
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is aggressively working with community-based, mission-focused lenders to make Community Advantage loans to small businesses.
The new Community Advantage pilot initiative was announced by SBA in December of 2010 and is designed to expand access to lower dollar loans and lending in traditionally underserved communities. SBA and U.S. Department of Commerce studies have shown the importance of lower dollar loans to small business formation and growth in underserved communities.
Built on what SBA refers to as its “Advantage” platform, both Small Loan Advantage and Community Advantage offer a streamlined application process for SBA-guaranteed 7(a) loans up to $250,000. Advantage loans will come with the regular 7(a) government guarantee, 85 percent for loans up to $150,000 and 75 percent for those greater than $150,000.
“Businesses in underserved communities, including minority and women-owned as well as businesses in rural areas, have been among the hardest hit by the recent economic downturn,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “These two new Advantage initiatives can provide critical support to help these businesses and entrepreneurs get much needed financing to start and grow, which will translate into more jobs in these communities.”
Community Advantage is aimed at increasing the number of lower-dollar SBA 7(a) loans going to small businesses and entrepreneurs in underserved communities. The agency’s most popular loan product, 7(a) government-guaranteed loans, can be used for a variety of general business purposes, including working capital and purchases of equipment and real estate.
Through Community Advantage, the agency is expanding the points of access small business owners have for getting loans by opening SBA’s 7(a) loan program to “mission-focused” financial institutions, including Community Development Financial Institutions, SBA’s Certified Development Companies and SBA’s nonprofit micro-lending intermediaries. Community Advantage leverages the experience these institutions already have in lending to minority, women-owned and start-up companies in economically challenged markets, along with their management and technical assistance expertise, to help make their borrowers successful.
For more information:
Community Advantage Loans and Small Loan Advantage:
Contact an SBA District Office: http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-list/2
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