CEDAR RAPIDS — The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation was honored Monday in Washington, D.C., for a loan program aimed at helping entrepreneurs and small businesses achieve their goals.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and the Council on Foundations awarded the Cedar Rapids group the Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships for its collaborative MICRO loan program.
The program offers small businesses and entrepreneurs loans ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, to be paid off in up to three years at a 4 percent interest rate.
The program has made 11 loans since it began in 2015, said Les Garner, president and CEO of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.
Local entrepreneurs approached Garner a few years ago about opportunities for private philanthropy to play a role in aiding small businesses and entrepreneurs, Garner said.
The MICRO loan program resulted from those efforts and has evolved into a partnership between public and private entities.
Garner said he anticipates the award will bring visibility to the program.
“ ... We’re proud of the recognition it gives to the Cedar Rapids community for its ability to come together and create a new program collaboratively,” he said. “That’s a real credit to the community, and I think it’s something characteristic of Cedar Rapids.”
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The East Central Iowa Council of Governments administers the program, according to Jasmine Almoayed, the economic development manager for the city of Cedar Rapids. The council already worked with the city to manage the Cedar Rapids Revolving Loan Fund, she said, and $75,000 from that fund was carved out for the MICRO loan program.
Almoayed said the program taps into a whole market of potential business owners in Cedar Rapids, targeting “small business owners who are looking for access to small amounts of capital but don’t have the access to the same resources that other types of entrepreneurs might have.”
“To have something that’s actually worked this well in such a short period of time receive national recognition is something that we as a community should be really proud of,” she said.
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