Join to spur lending to blacks


Federal agency gives Baltimore center role in prequalifying loans


April 16, 1999|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

The federal Small Business Administration signed up the NAACP's Community Development Resource Center in Baltimore yesterday to become a part of its effort to quadruple lending to blacks by 2000.

In a news conference at the Baltimore headquarters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the SBA and the civil rights organization designated the center as a prequalification loan intermediary.

As an intermediary, the center will provide free lending services. They include:

Reviewing business plans and credit reports to determine qualifications for the SBA program.

Providing technical assistance on how to improve the business plan.

Packaging the loan and submitting it to the SBA for consideration.

Referring potential borrowers to a lender for financing.

The NAACP has seven other resource centers -- in Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Indiana. Those centers and their local SBA offices will also sign agreements, said Jennine Auerbach, the Baltimore center director.

The Baltimore resource center, located in the NAACP's national headquarters, opened in 1996 and has primarily offered homeownership assistance, she said.

The SBA will provide training to boost the center's services to small businesses, said Allan Stephenson, the SBA's Baltimore district director.

"We will help the NAACP shape the program, and in turn, the NAACP will bring us more credibility among minority entrepreneurs," Stephenson said yesterday. "We're challenging folks to make us exhaust every dime we have."

In 1992, the SBA's Baltimore district office approved two loans to African-American businesses out of 200 deals statewide. Last year, 100 loans to black businesses were approved out of 600 deals statewide, he said.

In May, the SBA began its national quest to quadruple lending to black business owners and triple lending to Hispanic firms. Aida Alvarez, the agency's federal administrator, enlisted three national groups -- the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund -- to market the SBA's goals to business owners in their networks.

Vice President Al Gore formally announced the campaign in July at the NAACP's annual convention in Atlanta.

Kerry L. Kirkland, the SBA regional administrator, said the lending initiative for black business owners is "just starting to get off the ground," but he's expecting it to be successful.

"Prior to this goal, it has been unheard of to do this type of economic empowerment within the African-American community."

While Gore's announcement was an "auspicious event, this occasion is where the rubber meets the road, where implementation begins, and we inch a little closer to building wealth in our community," said Jeanne Hitchcock, the NAACP's chief operating officer.

Pub Date: 4/16/99

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