Being Black History Month, it’s important for the African-American community not just to look back at the strides and sacrifices those before them have made, but also to keep their eyes on the future. A major part of ensuring a better future for Black people is establishing stronger footholds in the business world, where many minorities work hard to succeed, but face entrenched obstacles in areas like obtaining capital or other business essentials. As The Network Journal reports, it is fitting that a special collaboration of organizations and institutions have launched a small business lending program for minority business owners.
This collaboration includes the National Urban League’s Urban Empowerment Fund (NUL-UEF), Morgan Stanley, National Development Council (NDC) Urban League of Greater Cleveland (ULGC), and Cuyahoga County, who have come together to offer the Capital Access Fund of Greater Cleveland (CAF). CAF will be a three-year program that will provide business owners with access to capital offering 50 loans that reach a total of $8 million. Pre- and post-loan counseling to ensure the success of those small business borrowers will also be a part of the program. The goal is to create a minimum of 300 jobs within these 3 years, and 8 loans totaling $1.4 million helping to create or maintain 70 local jobs have already been completed.
CAF will have two sources of capital, the Community Impact Loan Fund, a new NDC product established in partnership with $2 million in start-up capital from Morgan Stanley to support minority small business owners, and the Grow Cuyahoga Fund, supported with $2.5 million from Cuyahoga County.
Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, says “the level of interest we already have confirms what we already knew – there is a gap in the access to capital for minority businesses and we should not gloss over that. Our partnership with Morgan Stanley, the expertise of NDC, the commitment of Cuyahoga County, and the strong leadership of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland already have made this a success.”
Armond Budish, County Executive, adds that “small business creation and retention is a priority for my administration… We’re all about jobs, good jobs, throughout the county. With the Grow Cuyahoga Fund, Cuyahoga County’s partnership in the CAF program allows us to continue to lead the way as a place to grow and thrive for African American and other minority businesses which will help ensure our county remains a vibrant, healthy and welcoming place.” Other local funders include Cleveland Foundation, City of Cleveland, Burton D. Morgan Foundation, PNC Bank, and Fifth Third Bank.