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Spanning the Region

Monday, January 1, 2007

Memphis Gets New Seeds for Small Business Growth

Southeast Community Capital Corp. has an additional $500,000 to help finance small businesses in Memphis’ underserved areas thanks to an investment from Seedco Financial Services, a subsidiary of Structured Employment Economic Development Corp. in New York.

The Seedco investment allots $250,000 for businesses in the South Main Historic District in downtown Memphis. It comes as small business opportunities emerge because of the new Westin-Beale Street Hotel development.

The remaining $250,000 is designated for the Memphis Business Opportunity Fund (MBOF), managed by Southeast Community Capital Corp. This is the first injection of new capital into the MBOF since its inception in 2002. Additional investors include First Tennessee Bank, Regions Bank and SunTrust Bank, with investments totaling $1,350,000.

The City of Memphis created MBOF to make loans to disadvantaged small businesses. Loan amounts are $10,000 to $500,000. The fund targets small businesses owned by minority and women entrepreneurs that either employ low- to moderate-income individuals or that are located in the Memphis Renewal Community, designated by the City of Memphis.

In addition to the $500,000 investment, Seedco placed $50,000 into a loan-loss reserve to encourage investments in riskier ventures.

For more information, contact Patrice Harris, MBOF manager, Southeast Community Capital Corp., Memphis Office, at 901-526-9300 or e-mail her at

Illinois Main Street Communities Go Wi-Fi

The Carbondale, Ill., Main Street program got a $17,875 boost from the Illinois Main Street program to create a wi-fi district in downtown Carbondale. The free wireless district will stretch for 30 blocks, covering downtown businesses, the hospital, library, city hall and the civic center. About 5,500 residents, students and tourists work and play in downtown Carbondale every day, making it a hub for activity. Adding a wireless network will make it a virtual hub as well. In addition, the new wireless district will extend the wireless access already available on Southern Illinois University’s campus, allowing students the flexibility of taking their virtual campus off campus.

The Illinois Main Street program’s mission to increase tourism and economic development includes helping communities create wi-fi zones. Belleville, Mount Vernon and Quincy also have received grants to create virtual hot spots in their downtown areas.

Wi-fi, short for “wireless fidelity,” is a term for certain types of wireless local area networks.

Small Towns, Businesses Focus of Arkansas Partnership

The East Arkansas Enterprise Community (EAEC) is partnering with the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta and the Southern Good Faith Fund to help existing and potential entrepreneurs.

The EAEC’s Small Town Resource & Business Development Center assists small towns and cities with community, human and economic development and small business development. Located in Forrest City, Ark., the center is a one-stop shop for small and emerging businesses. Experts provide technical assistance in various areas of community development.

The Enterprise Corporation of the Delta provides technical assistance to small business startups and helps them plan for expansion and viability.
The Southern Good Faith Fund facilitates the start-up work for small business owners by providing workshops, training and technical assistance.

For more information, contact Cassandra Lumpkin at EAEC at 870-630-2005 or by e-mail at

REACH Illinois—Employer Assisted Housing

The REACH Illinois program provides matching funds and state tax credits for Illinois employers who implement employer-assisted housing programs.

The Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund will match an employer’s down payment and closing cost assistance up to $5,000 for each income-qualified employee. Income-qualified employees must earn less than 80 percent of the median county income where they reside. In addition, to help offset the cost to employers who implement a “live near work component,” the state will provide a tax credit of 50 cents for each dollar an employer invests in the program for eligible employees. Eligible expenses include down payment and closing cost assistance as well as home-buyer counseling and administrative costs.

For more information, contact Housing Action Illinois at 312-939-6074 or visit