Columbus now has two of the most successful Small Business Administration lenders in the nation.
For four consecutive years, Huntington Bancshares has been named the largest SBA lender in the United States And in late January, the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI) became the nation’s largest SBA microlender.
Small businesses were in dire need of capital during the pandemic, and ECDI stepped up to fill the void. In 2020, from April to December, the nonprofit distributed $16.9 million in loans. In 2021, the organization granted 2,757 loans, worth $61.2 million.
“It’s a huge honor for us, but especially since the onset of COVID,” said Inna Kinney, 59, of Bexley, who is the founder and CEO of ECDI. “We’ve made a strategic effort to help small businesses because historically they can’t get financing from traditional financial institutions.”
Since its inception in 2004, ECDI has provided $135.8 million in loans to underserved and underbanked entrepreneurs, creating more than 13,200 jobs. In addition to operating as an SBA microcredit intermediary, the organization is also a certified community development company and community development financial institution. Beyond the federal government, the organization receives funding from banks, foundations, municipalities, and the state of Ohio.
While microloans are capped at $50,000, ECDI offers loans up to $500,000.
ECDI has additional offices in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, and Toledo, and its footprint expands into Kentucky and Indiana. In addition to distributing loans, the organization provides training, technical assistance and incubation services. In fact, it has four Women’s Business Centers throughout Ohio.
ECDI has been a key part of the SBA’s success, according to SBA Central and Southern Ohio District Director Everett Woodel Jr.
“They’ve been extremely helpful in securing loans and other financial and business assistance for our small businesses,” Woodel said. “These are the small businesses that otherwise would have gone bankrupt during the pandemic. They really filled the void. »
Woodel also praised Kinney’s drive.
“She’s definitely motivated,” he said. “She knows the markets very well. She really cares.
Since the pandemic began, Kinney said she has shifted gears, calling on funders to, as a first step, provide direct grants to businesses so they can stay afloat.
“I begged and begged,” she said.
Then it went back to these lenders to ask for low-interest capital.
Then she decided to provide Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, especially since minority-owned businesses were excluded from the process.
“The banks weren’t meeting the needs of these businesses,” she said. “They were pretty much making PPP loans to the same old clients. I told my staff, “We’re going to do $25 million in PPP loans.” And I was laughed out of the room.
In 2021, ECDI disbursed 2,148 PPP loans worth over $44 million. About 75% of the recipients were African American-owned businesses and about 41% were women-owned businesses.
“I had a whole bunch of bets (with the staff),” Kinney said with a laugh. “Nobody ever paid.”
Kinney said she was particularly passionate about helping underserved businesses because of her personal experience. Growing up in the former Soviet Union, she faced discrimination because she was Jewish. When her family fled to the United States, she faced discrimination because she was an immigrant.
“My passion in life is to level the playing field for everyone, because it doesn’t matter if you’re white or black, or female or male; everyone deserves an opportunity,” she said.
Continued:New loan and grant programs available for minority and women-owned businesses
As a minority-owned electrical contracting service, Universe Electric benefited from the services of ECDI.
The Columbus-based company is owned by David Henry, who has taken advantage of the organization’s capital program for African-American and minority-owned construction businesses, which often struggle to afford the up-front costs to complete projects well.
“We’ve been working on the new Columbus Crew stadium,” said Henry, 60, of the South Side. “It helped us get up and running because it took us 60 days to get our first payment. Being able to get that money up front helped our payroll. So we were able to take on more projects. important this year thanks to this program (ECDI) is a lifeline.
Continued:Columbus Crew’s Lower.com Field Contracts Opened New Doors for Minority and Women-Owned Businesses in Ohio
ECDI plans to maintain the same pace as the pandemic continues. The organization recently remodeled its building to provide more work space for entrepreneurs. And the team is launching a $20 million fundraising campaign over three years to support small businesses.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” Kinney said. “My goal is to always make sure they are not left behind.”