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Are you a new market loan contender? Featured

9:37am EDT July 22, 2002

If you're a minority, woman or veteran who owns a business in a low- or moderate-income area, pay attention.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, in partnership with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, has launched a new nationwide loan program for you.

The program, called the SBA Community Express Loan Program, is designed to help bring traditionally underserved markets into the mainstream of the economy. It began last year as a pilot program involving nine banks in 20 locations. With its early success, it is being expanded to include as many as 500 lenders across the country.

"Community Express brings together the SBA's program experience and lending capability with the lending and community development expertise of the NCRC," says SBA Administrator Aida Alvarez in a prepared statement. "And now that we are expanding this program nationwide, more Americans will have the opportunity to fully participate in the mainstream of the U.S. economy by starting and growing successful small businesses."

The program's intent is to bring SBA financing to areas where commercial loans have been difficult to get. Loans include term loans, lines of credit and commercial mortgages. Loan proceeds can be used to purchase inventory, machinery and equipment, land and buildings, and for working capital.

SBA-backed loan recipients can also receive technical and management assistance that will be funded by the lenders and provided by NCRC member organizations, both before and after loan closings.

Since the program began in June 1999, lenders have made 110 Community Express loans ranging in amounts from $5,000 to $250,000, for a total of $11.1 million. An estimated two-thirds of the loans have been to minority-owned businesses, and an estimated 43 percent have gone to women-owned businesses. Among the early recipients was Pittsburgh-based Irvin Williams and Associates, a minority-owned financial services firm, which received a $30,000 Community Express loan for working capital.

The program is part of the SBA's New Markets Initiative, aimed at improving economic development and job creation in rural and inner-city communities with venture capital, commercial loan credits and technical assistance. NCRC is a nonprofit trade association made up of 680 dues-paying community development and advocacy groups. For more information about the program, contact the SBA's Western Pennsylvania District office in Pittsburgh at (412) 395-6560.