Spanning the Region

Arkansas Baptist College Launches Entrepreneurship Center and Microloan Program

Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, Ark., launched the Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development on Feb. 28. The Center will train entrepreneurs to start businesses in underserved communities and will offer a microenterprise loan fund as a catalyst to spur business development in core urban areas. The pilot fund will be supervised by an independent board that includes the college's business faculty and administration and local financial experts who specialize in banking and venture capital operations. Loans will range from $50 to $5,000.

The Center will also offer The Icehouse Project. Arkansas Baptist College is one of the initial sites selected to launch the pilot program, developed by Pulitzer Prize-nominee Clifton Taulbert and Gary Schoeniger. Drawing on the life lessons Taulbert learned from his Uncle Cleve, an unlikely entrepreneur in 1950s Mississippi, this special course is designed to immerse participants in eight life lessons (choice, opportunity, action, knowledge, wealth, brand, community, persistence) that are fundamental concepts to building an entrepreneurial mindset. The Icehouse Project is supported financially by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and The Foundation of Entrepreneurship, which focuses on entrepreneurship, innovation and education.

For more information about the Center and microloan fund, contact Larry Bone at 501-244-5139.

Help for Kentucky Homeowners

Many Kentucky businesses have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and workers in the state have been strongly affected by the recession as work hours have been reduced or jobs eliminated. The Kentucky Unemployment Bridge Program (UBP) is a new loan option administered by the Kentucky Housing Corporation to assist in making mortgage payments. To be eligible, homeowners must have experienced a job loss or reduced income due to changing economic conditions, through no fault of their own, and demonstrate a need for assistance. The job-related event must have occurred after Jan. 1, 2009. The maximum amount of assistance is $20,000 or 12 months, whichever occurs first. The maximum amount that may be used for reinstatement—all related fees and payments to bring the loan(s) current—is $7,500. The program launched statewide on April 1. For more details, visit www.kyhousing.org/protect/default.aspx?id=3586.

BOOST Loan Program

The St. Louis County Economic Council (SLCEC) has created a new loan program to further help businesses that have problems with access to capital. Believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, BOOST provides an alternative to the SBA 504 loan. It features fewer eligibility requirements (e.g., no net worth, income size or personal liquidity limits) and has the option of a variable or fixed interest rate. This innovative program is available for businesses expanding within St. Louis County and is available for the purchase or construction of land, buildings, machinery and equipment. The program's benefits include financing of up to 90 percent; low floating interest rates; variable/fixed rate option; no prepayment penalty for floating rate; and 20-year term.

The Business Finance Corporation of St. Louis at SLCEC will administer BOOST. The program offers a maximum of $500,000 in gap financing or 40 percent of the project cost. For more information, call 314-615-7663 or visit www.slcec.com/boost.html.

Newly Formed Mississippi LIHTC Fund

Hope Credit Union, along with investors including Southern Farm Bureau, Bank Plus, Trustmark and First Commercial Bank, has created a new Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) equity fund that provides equity investments for the construction and rehabilitation of low-income affordable rental housing in Mississippi. An existing apartment complex in Jackson will be the site of the first investment from the fund, resulting in $7.5 million in renovations with New Horizons Development, LLC. This remodeling will create 40 two-bedroom and 20 three-bedroom affordable housing units. The fund is co-managed by the Great Lakes Capital Fund. More information can be found at www.hopecu.org or by calling 1-866-843-3358.

Bank On Memphis

There's a new plan in town! Launched in March, Bank On Memphis (BOM) focuses on people who don't have bank accounts (the "unbanked") and those who do have accounts but don't take full advantage of them (the "underbanked"). The program encourages citizens to use banks instead of costly alternative financial institutions (e.g., payday lenders, check cashers) that sometimes charge more than 300 percent interest. About 96,000 households in Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn., are either unbanked or underbanked. A similar number have bank accounts but don't know how to use bank products to build wealth. Participating financial institutions will reduce minimum opening deposits for BOM customers, offer accounts with no minimum monthly balance requirement, and offer ATM or debit cards with no ATM fees. Nonprofit organizations will teach participants basic accounting principles and then provide a referral card that can be used to open an account at participating institutions, currently First Tennessee, Cadence Bank, Regions Financial and SunTrust. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Memphis Branch, will collect data and provide quarterly reports.

Full details can be found at www.bankonmemphis.org.

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