T he North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC) has been designated as a “SBA Community Advantage Lender,” according to an announcement made today by Robert H. Nelson, Massachusetts District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration. New England SBA Regional Administrator Wendell Davis and SBA MA District Director Nelson co-presented the designation to NCMDC President Roy Nascimento at a special event in Fitchburg.
US Representatives Nikki Tsongas and James McGovern; Massachusetts Asst. Secretary of Business Development and Trade Nam Pham; Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale; and numerous other business and community leaders also participated in the special event.
Established in the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis, the Community Advantage Lender Program seeks to extend credit to small businesses in underserved communities. It accomplishes this by seeking out lenders with experience working with clients who fit this description and ensuring their loans. The SBA provides guarantees of 85% for loans up to $150,000 and 75% for loans above that and up to $250,000.
To qualify as participants, applicants to the program are required to fit at least one of four criteria. Among these are recognition by the US Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and certification as an SBA approved microlender. Beyond that, participants are required to direct 60% of their Community Advantage backed loans to “underserved markets”. These include neighborhoods identified by the census as boasting a median income at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI), businesses who primarily employ individuals from low to moderate income (LMI) households or census tracts, new businesses established within the last two years, and businesses qualified to participate in the SBA’s Veterans Advantage Program.
Already a SBA certified microlender and federally recognized Community Development Financial Institution, the NCMDC provides gap financing and serves as a lender of last resort for small businesses and entrepreneurs throughout Central Massachusetts. In doing so, it has lent out roughly $6 million since its inception in 1996, leveraged an additional $21 million in private funds, and created nearly a thousand jobs. During a recent review of its portfolio, roughly half of its existing loans were found to be located in low to moderate income census tracts. “We are very excited and honored to have been selected as an SBA approved Community Advantage Lender,” said Roy M. Nascimento, President & CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation. “This new partnership with the SBA will go a long way in helping to support local small businesses and the economic growth of the region.”
“The power of the Community Advantage Program is that it allows mission-based lenders like North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation — the ability to better meet the financing needs of the region’s small business that grow and thrive beyond traditional microfinance levels,” said Bob Nelson, SBA Massachusetts District Director. “This new status will allow NCMDC to leverage the guarantee of the Small Business Administration, which is typically 75% – 85% of the loan, up to $250,000 — to help more promising small businesses obtain the right amount of capital they need to start, grow and build vibrant business districts.”
Among those speaking at Thursdays event were the region’s two US representatives. Congratulating the NCMDC for their designation, Rep. Tsongas stated that “So much American innovation occurs within small businesses and the federal government must play a deliberate role in supporting small business growth.” She went on to point out that “Partnerships between federal agencies and local organizations like the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation are how the federal government can be a strategic partner.”
Rep. McGovern likewise stated that “Keeping our economy strong starts with smart investments in local small businesses. North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation is playing a vital role in helping small businesses in our region get the support they need to succeed. Their work with small businesses in underserved communities is helping to break down barriers and open more doors for entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. I am proud to support NCMDC and look forward to seeing all the ways they help to expand opportunity and grow our economy for years to come.”
Under this program, loans made by the NCMDC can be used for working capital, leasehold improvements, machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures and refinancing of business credit card debt. Eligible businesses include manufacturing, retail, wholesale and service businesses usually having five employees or less at the time of application and meeting the definition of small business. The interest rates are flexible, but generally close to the current fixed market rate.