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June 13, 2021 | Tom Ballard

New $7.5 million fund announced to support small, minority businesses in Chattanooga

An announcement last week in Chattanooga brings encouraging news to small and minority-led businesses in the community, particularly borrowers who may not qualify for a conventional bank business loan.

The “Chattanooga Small Business Opportunity Fund” is a $7.5 million initiative that will be administered by Pathway Lending, a regional non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).

Pathway, which was launched in 1999 by the now defunct Oak Ridge-based Technology 2020 venture development organization, is headquartered in Nashville. It will open a new local office in the Edney Innovation Center which is the epicenter for many of Chattanooga’s activities focused on entrepreneurs.

As described in this news release, three financial institutions – Pinnacle Financial PartnersFirst Horizon Bank, and Regions Bank – provided capital to establish the loan fund along with grant support from The Benwood, Bobby Stone, Footprint and Lyndhurst FoundationsJPMorgan Chase Foundation and Pointer Management Co.

Pathway will begin deploying funds to approved borrowers in Chattanooga immediately with loans that range from $5,000 to $500,000 for working capital lines of credit, term loans for equipment and real estate, and microloans. Pathway Lending will also develop targeted loan products in connection with JPMorgan Chase’s support.

In addition, Pathway and the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga will undertake research to identify existing minority-owned businesses prepared to scale, assess their capital and capacity needs, and uncover gaps in the ecosystem. They expect to complete and publish the research in late summer or early fall 2021.

Katie Hendrix is joining Pathway as its new Vice President of Stakeholder and Client Development in Chattanooga, and Quentin Lawrence is joining the team as Vice President of Lending in Chattanooga. Hendrix previously served as Chief of Staff at CO.LAB where she ran the CO.LAB Capital Network, working closely with entrepreneurs and investors to provide access to capital in the area.

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