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New Small Business Administration pilot program leverages community lenders

Intermediary Lending Program is a promising development

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is moving forward with an interesting pilot program that will attempt to use established non-profit community organizations to help make much-needed loans to communities and enterprises which may have previously not enjoyed full access to available funding. The Intermediary Lending Program, a 2-3 year pilot program, is beginning this year, with 20 local organizations empowered by the SBA to make loans of up to $200,000 to new and existing businesses. Another 20 lenders will be added to the program in 2012.

Especially noteworthy are the kinds of partner organizations present in this new program. For instance, the innovative San Fransisco community development venture capital fund and community business consultants, Pacific Community Ventures has been selected as one local partner, as has the CDFI offshoot of TELACU, an important, four decades old community development corporation in Los Angeles. Another milestone in the pilot program for recognition of emerging new models for community-based economic development is the selection of the Cooperative Fund of New England as one of the lending partners; The CFNE is a 35 year old project which has made over 500 loans to cooperative businesses and non-profit initiatives—without losing a single dollar of investors’ money, no small feat in today’s economy. Thanks to the persistent efforts of the National Cooperative Business Association, the SBA seems, with this partnership in particular but also more generally, to be beginning to recognize the unique and vital role cooperatives can play in economic development.

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