2019-09-27 13:18:45

GARFIELD PARK — Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined Accion Chicago and Local Initiatives Support Corporation this week to announce a major expansion to the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund.

Six new financial partners — First Midwest Bank, U.S. Bank, The Coleman Foundation, McCormick Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust and Providence Bank & Trust — have now added $3.6 million in additional investments to the initiative. The announcement took place at the Hatchery Chicago, 135 N. Kedzie Ave., a food business incubator in Garfield Park and the headquarters for Accion, the nonprofit lender that manages the fund alongside Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

The fund targets minority-owned small businesses and aims to promote economic growth on parts of the South and West sides in need of jobs and investment. The Entrepreneurs of Color Fund was launched last year in Chicago with initial funding from JPMorgan Chase and Fifth Third Bank.

The new investments have allowed the fund to exceed $9 million, enabling the program expand the loans it is able to offer to small businesses in blighted areas. Lightfoot said at the press conference that small businesses are the backbone of the city’s economy, and would be the cornerstone for recovery in disinvested areas.

“The Entrepreneurs of Color Fund plays a critical role in driving small business growth in our communities, particularly those that have experienced generational disinvestment, and we are grateful to these newest funders for stepping up and doing their part as we expand access to capital, develop entrepreneurial skills, and truly unlock our city’s potential as a beacon of hope and opportunity for all,” she said.

Meghan Harte, executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago, said investing in local businesses “is essential to creating community wealth and power and, is integral to supporting the communities we serve.”

In the Chicago fund’s first year, 130 loans were made to small businesses, with more than half going to women-owned businesses.  The program said the $1.7 million in loans offered last year have helped to create or preserve nearly 400 jobs.

Initially founded in Detroit in 2015, the fund has also expanded to include San Francisco, the Bronx, and Washington D.C.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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