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Published: Thursday, 11/29/2012

Microlender seeks $125,000 to open office

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Columbus-based nonprofit microlender plans to open a branch in Toledo and offer loans to entrepreneurs whose operations are too small or too uncreditworthy to get money from a bank.

The Economic and Community Development Institute wants $125,000 from Toledo taxpayers to start the local office.

“We believe in local businesses, in local economy,” said Inna Kinney, the firm’s founder and chief executive. “To date, we have assisted in creating 2,000 businesses and 4,000 jobs.”

Toledo City Council’s Economic Development committee heard the firm’s pitch Wednesday.

City records say that the Economic and Community Development Institute needs $250,000 annually for operating start-up costs. The city would be the largest contributor if council approves the request. Other public agencies, economic development groups, and major banks are being asked to donate.

Mayor Mike Bell supports the expense.

“We continue to look for ways to support community development and entrepreneurship,” Mr. Bell said. “This program is another important step in building capacity among small businesses in our local economy.”

The nonprofit institute, which specializes in loans under $100,000, leverages loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Ms. Kinney said the organization offers training and guidance to businesses after the loan.

Council President Joe McNamara said he “absolutely supports” the idea.

“It leverages millions of dollars and this group has a 6.8 percent default rate,” he said. “They are focusing on low income and creating jobs.”

The Economic and Community Development Institute in July opened an office in Cleveland with a $4.6 million fund of money from public and private supporters.

The city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County were among the donors, but Huntington Bank was the largest donor with $2 million pledged to launch the program.

Council Adam Martinez, a co-sponsor of the $125,000 legislative request, said in 2008 a group including the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, the city, and the Regional Growth Partnership realized that microlending was lacking in Toledo.

“We went to all the usual suspects and there was no one really with the expertise to do microlending,” Mr. Martinez said. “There was a need and this fit the bill. We saw a huge need in our central city neighborhoods because of the amount of disinvestment."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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