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August 14, 2023 | Tom Ballard

865 Opportunity Fund makes first publicly announced loan

Little Vols Learning Center in Karns is utilizing the funding to make capital improvements to a former preschool.

Little Vols Learning Center in Karns has received the first publicly announced loan from the 865 Opportunity Fund for renovations that will expand its capacity to serve the Knoxville community.

Announced in mid-January, the $6 million fund will provide loans between $5,000 and $50,000 to eligible small businesses in the Greater Knoxville area, helping address a funding gap for business capital. The fund is part of a collaborative effort aimed at expanding Knoxville’s small business ecosystem, with funding focused on minority- and woman-owned businesses in Anderson, Blount, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Roane, Sevier, and Union Counties.

The 865 Opportunity Fund is administered by Pathway Lending, a Nashville-based but Oak Ridge-founded community development financial institution, that is collaborating with First Horizon, Pinnacle Financial Partners, and Regions Bank on the fund.

In a news release announcing the loan, the Knoxville Chamber wrote that Owner Michael Dowsey is utilizing the funding to make capital improvements to a former preschool that he purchased with the help of a HUD Block Grant from Knox County. “The loan application was not difficult. A Pathway Lending coach helped me throughout the process,” he said.

A University of Tennessee, Knoxville graduate with a master’s degree in social work, Dowsey is unveiling a new curriculum at an open house for the public from 6 to 8 p.m. on August 22 at 75334 Oak Ridge Highway. The childcare facility currently serves about 50 children aged 1-3 years. An infant care wing is opening soon, and future plans call for an afterschool program.

“We are excited to mark this milestone and eager to ensure a variety of funding sources exist for small businesses,” said Nancy Nabors, Director of Regional Enhancement for the Knoxville Chamber. “We’re also pleased that this loan is for a childcare center, which is much needed in our community.”

Pathway Lending is a nonprofit, mission-driven lending institution that serves Tennessee communities and small businesses and specializes in working with veteran, women, minority, rural and low-income small business borrowers. In addition to the 865 Opportunity Fund, the organization offers a complete catalog of small business and commercial loan products, from $5,000 to $5 million, and a full range of learning programs, from classrooms to one-to-one coaching, to businesses at any stage in any industry.

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