Jenna Eason The Macon Telegraph
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The grant will specifically support BIPOC and women entrepreneurs who have been traditionally underserved and denied access to capital
A national foundation announced Wednesday a grant of $1.5 million to a Macon nonprofit to increase business ventures by women and people of color.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded $1 million to NewTown Macon's Godsey Initiatives Fund to help provide funding and education to entrepreneurs who traditionally haven't had access to capital.
The foundation also contributed $500,000 to NewTown Loans to grow the program and its resources for borrowers.
"As we focused on equipping local people with the knowledge and the money they need to build businesses and repair buildings. It won't surprise you to know that women and people of color have just as many good ideas as everyone else," said Josh Rogers, president and CEO of NewTown Macon, at the announcement. "Today we realize that these talented local investors are our best asset in Macon and the only reason that downtown revitalization has worked."
Bethany Rogers, the executive director of NewTown Loans, also announced that NewTown Loans has officially become Middle Georgia's first Community Development Financial Institution, one of only seven in the state of Georgia.
"The name does speak for itself in that we are a lending institution focused with a mission of community development, so we invest in pivotal projects in communities where the traditional finance sector just cannot reach, where they cannot lend," she said.
How does NewTown Loans provide funds to women, BIPOC entrepreneurs?
The way in which NewTown Loans provides funding to women and people of color who would not be able to access capital through a traditional bank is by creating an accessible and fair application process and by assessing an investment's risk differently.
"We assess people's worthiness to borrow based on different standards in order to get capital to underbanked borrowers and to underbanked communities, and then we pair that with financial education," Bethany Rogers said.
When NewTown Macon started its loan program in 2011, Josh Rogers said at a previous announcement that they found they were already investing in women and people of color.
"As a nonprofit lender, when you get out of the regulated environment of banks, those are the kinds of people who are not able to access capital anyway," he said. "There is this whole industry called a CDFI that specializes in this, so we were already doing it, and it just made all the sense in the world to be able to achieve the certification."
NewTown Loans plans to expand its lending and begin investing in ventures in neighborhoods surrounding downtown Macon, such as Tindall Heights, Pleasant Hill and Fort Hill, Bethany Rogers said.
Entrepreneurs who are interested in applying for a loan with NewTown Loans can visit www.newtownmacon.com/loans for more information.
"The ultimate goal for all of this is not only improvements, properties and more businesses and locally owned businesses that make our neighborhood vibrant, but it's about wealth. We understand real estate and building businesses as a tool to build wealth for households and generations, and that's our greatest aspiration," she said.
Community support In June, the Phil J. and Alice S. Sheridan Foundation pledged $1 million to NewTown Loans to help underserved real estate developers and entrepreneurs. At the time, the fund had $14 million.
The Macon-Bibb County Commission approved $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to NewTown Macon and the Historic Macon Foundation to build rental units and renovate existing ones in downtown Macon and Beall's Hill Neighborhood.
The Knight Foundation matched the award, and NewTown Macon will receive $2 million to fund local entrepreneurs to purchase and renovate 20 blighted properties to later rent at affordable rates. Historic Macon will use the remaining $1.2 million to build 12-16 rental units by the spring of 2022. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.