How a one-woman operation became a statewide job generator

 

The Economic and Community Development Institute fills a lending gap across Ohio for entrepreneurs, startups and existing businesses that traditional lenders often won’t.

“We see opportunities in those individuals,” says Inna Kinney, ECDI’s founder and CEO. “I personally believe that everybody deserves an opportunity to have their own business. That’s what our whole economy is based upon.”

Kinney says it’s become her life’s mission, realized through the statewide SBA lender she heads, to give new and established businesses opportunities to succeed in the market. The nonprofit facilitates those opportunities through small business and microloans, and resources and training that provide hands-on, real-world lessons that also help individuals achieve something bigger.

“We help them put together business plans, we help them get access to capital,” she says. “But we see in those individuals the legacy that they will leave behind by starting those businesses, being able to support their families, showing their children that if you work hard you can realize the American dream.”

Carving out its niche

According to ECDI’s 2016 Impact Report, the nonprofit disbursed over $7.5 million in fiscal year 2016 through 321 loans, creating 524 jobs and retaining 733 more while assisting 1,150 individuals. Since it was established in 2004, it reports that it disbursed more than $33 million in loans, which average about $28,000, and created more than 3,000 jobs.

The organization has carved out a niche by lending to borrowers that banks might not see as the best candidates, in part because of the perceived risk of funding what are often unproven entities. Kinney says ECDI is insulated from that risk because of the technical assistance and training it provides.

ECDI and the banks are not, however, competitors.

“Oh, it’s a phenomenal relationship,” Kinney says. “Banks invest money in ECDI. They provide a lot of referrals to us.”

Banks, she says, invest money in the nonprofit’s loan funds because often it doesn’t make sense for banks to make the smaller loans. It also helps banks stack up Community Reinvestment Act credits, which are important because the Federal Reserve takes a bank’s CRA performance record into account when considering their applications for deposit facilities.