Cedar Rapids Expands Startup Assistance with Microloans

Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | August 12th, 2015

Corridor Business Journal PM Update August 11, 2015

A new microloan program will be created this fall in a partnership led by the city of Cedar Rapids to expand the city’s startup assistance to more residents.

The program will offer loans ranging from $1,000-$10,000, to be paid off in up to three years at 4 percent interest, said Jasmine Almoayed, the city’s economic development liaison, at today’s city council meeting.

Ms. Almoayed said the discussions about the need for assisting minority populations in starting businesses began in earnest in February with a large group of nonprofits and other partners, who identified a gap in services available to lower-income residents.

Les Garner, CEO of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, helped the group identify the Cedar Rapids Business Assistance Revolving Loan Fund, an outgrowth of the city’s flood recovery needs, as a source of the initial $50,000 funding for microloans. Private donors including Barry and Gilda Boyer and Ravi Patel contributed $25,000 more so that the program can be offered in core neighborhoods outside the flood-affected area.

“We discovered microlending is a really important tool for urban economic development in cities across the country,” Mr. Garner told the council.

The program, approved unanimously by the city council, will be launched in September in partnership with the Cedar Rapids Public Library, SCORE, the SBA Small Business Development Center, and the East Central Iowa Council of Governments.

“It takes a village to build our entrepreneurial businesses, and so it’s great to have this community effort,” councilmember Kris Gulick said. He said stimulating business startups will bolster the city’s workforce recruitment efforts, because people want to move to areas where new businesses are being created.

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