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NWSI launches innovative microloan program for businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs

February 03, 2011

Jaime Winne Alvarez
(315) 443-3784

The Near Westside Initiative (NWSI), with a $25,000 grant from the Central New York Community Foundation, has launched a microloan program for existing businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs on the Near Westside of Syracuse. Developed by NWSI deputy director Michael Short in partnership with the Community Foundation and Cooperative Federal Credit Union, the program model is innovative and the first revolving microloan program of its kind in the area. The loan program will provide vital credit financing to spur economic development in the neighborhood, which is experiencing considerable investment and growth.

NWSI“Small business and entrepreneurial opportunities represent the cornerstone of a thriving community,” says Short, who is also chair of the NWSI Small Business Development Committee. “Our innovative program, working in harmony with the NWSI’s overall efforts, will create jobs, build the tax base and strengthen the local economy by building on the assets that already exist within this community.”

The Community Foundation awarded $25,000 of seed funding to launch the program. The NWSI is using that funding to create a loan loss reserve with a local credit union with a proven track record of managing smaller and riskier loans that traditional banks will not back.

“The Community Foundation is pleased to support efforts that can promote community development in areas where disinvestment has been the pattern,” says John Eberle, vice president for grants and community initiatives at the Community Foundation. “We truly hope the microloan program sparks even further innovation, enterprise and investment in our community’s Near Westside.”

Syracuse’s Cooperative Federal Credit Union has agreed to loan a multiple of that guarantee, which will effectively quadruple all funds committed to the program. With this backing, the NWSI has the ability to grant loans from a $100,000 loan pool to Near Westside businesses and entrepreneurs as a result of the partnership agreement with the credit union.

“For many small businesses, access to affordable capital is the difference between a good idea and a real chance for success,” says Ron Ehrenreich, treasurer and CEO of Cooperative Federal. “While many mainstream banks are unwilling to take those chances, fostering micro-business opportunity has been central to our credit union’s mission for nearly 30 years. We’re excited to bring that opportunity to Near Westside entrepreneurs as a partner in the microloan program.”

The NWSI’s microloan program is designed to be the final step in the initiative’s comprehensive small business and entrepreneurial development program, operated by the NWSI’s Small Business Development Committee in partnership with Syracuse University’s South Side Innovation Center, the Small Business Development Center at Onondaga Community College and Syracuse SCORE. The committee actively recruits neighborhood residents and businesses to enroll in the program.

“These exciting new programs are representative of the broader effort under way in the neighborhood,” says Maarten Jacobs, NWSI director. “Big thinking, innovative approaches—we’re working to empower residents so they can make positive change in their community.”

The NWSI Entrepreneurial and Small Business Development Program is directed toward a broad clientele of aspiring, new and existing entrepreneurs, low-income individuals and individuals with disabilities, to help them establish profitable and sustainable businesses. The goal of the program is to help promote stability and growth, as well as increase productivity and profitability by helping individuals make informed decisions relating to their businesses.

“Once an individual successfully completes the NWSI’s entrepreneurial and small businesses development program, they will be eligible for our microloan program, which will provide them with the funding needed to implement their business plans,” says Short.

The program provides a complete teaching, training and financing program for each client with individualized, one-on-one consulting, classes and courses. These services include business plan development, organization structures, exporting, cost analysis, marketing, financial planning, financial strategies, business expansion and research.

For more information on the NWSI microloan program, contact Short at (315) 308-0543 or mwshort@syr.edu.

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