OWATONNA — The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation is partnering with the state to help minorities, women, veterans and others finance their businesses.
Gov. Mark Dayton’s office announced last week that the foundation, which serves a 20-county region in southern Minnesota and is headquartered in Owatonna, will receive $50,000 under the new Minnesota Emerging Entrepreneur Loan Program.
“These loans will help Minnesotans from communities that have historically struggled to access capital get the resources they need to start or grow businesses,” Lt. Governor Tina Smith said in the statement. “Expanding economic opportunities for communities of color, women, veterans, and people with disabilities is essential to building an economy that works for everyone, everywhere in Minnesota.”
The foundation is one of 23 partner non-profit organizations selected by the Department of Employment and Economic Development to share portions of the $2 million seed money. That money will then be available to loan to qualified individuals with new or existing small businesses.
The program is an expansion of an earlier program, the Metro-centric Urban Initiative loan system, and is part of the state’s effort to close the achievement and opportunity gaps facing many demographics in the state, according to Dayton’s statement.
SMIF loan officer Diane Lewis said the foundation is still learning more about the state’s guidelines and restrictions on the program, but said the funding would complement other programs already underway to support different segments of the population.
“We have a Prosperity Initiative that’s working with minorities, so that will probably be our priority, but we’ve also been getting applications from lots of veterans,” she said. “Any of those people, in the 20-county area we serve, if they apply, we can look at it.”
The Prosperity Initiative, another partnership with DEED, was launched in 2015 and focuses largely on providing technical assistance to minority business owners. The new program has a broader scope and will offer revolving loans starting at $5,000, according to the release.
“With this funding, more Minnesotans will have the opportunity to grow businesses across our state, supporting good jobs and strong local economies,” said Dayton. “We must continue working to expand economic opportunities for communities of color, women, veterans, and people with disabilities across our state, to build a better Minnesota for everyone.”
Official application procedures are not yet finalized, but Lewis said the money would likely join other loan funds the foundation oversees.
“We have a lot of loan pools, and we are a gap lender,” she said. “This just another loan pool we can draw dollars from.”