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By Juliana Accioly
Businesses in north Miami-Dade County can now increasingly turn to their community for funding. The Opa-locka Community Development Corporation will be loaning capital and mentoring entrepreneurship in Opa-locka, Liberty City and other under-resourced areas.
Recognizing the fact that lending institutions are more reluctant to fund small ventures and that many companies cannot reach high levels of growth because of the “capital gap” common between starting and scaling up, the OLCDC has secured a $1M grant from JPMorgan Chase to assist small businesses with increasing their borrowing power, so they develop and qualify for higher loans in the future.
Businesses need no specific criteria to apply aside from being based and serving the north side of the county. The non-profit community development corporation will back small established ventures as well as creative ideas that have been struggling to get off the ground. Willie Logan, the organization’s chief executive officer, said that if a project is agreed, lending terms will be tailored to each borrower.
“The project,” he emphasized, “has the broader purpose of offering a funding scheme that works for the community we serve.”
The OLCDC has also partnered with a network of banks and firms to offer to mentor in accounting, marketing, legal and business planning so entrepreneurs can learn a sound framework to manage their new capital and establish themselves in the marketplace. For some, a combination of financial constraints, lack of business acumen and supplies makes starting a business an almost impossible dream. For others, spinning the experience of a homegrown business into something larger can be a daunting task.
One example is the Opa-locka native Johnny Fannin, who started selling barbecue from his home in 2013, and now runs the Crabman 305 restaurant.
With a steady growth and solid customer base, Fannin and his partner Darren Whitaker want to expand from take-out only to a bigger location where they can offer a sit-down area. Their $25,000 pending loan, Fannin said, will be used toward renting a bigger venue, purchasing more equipment and otherwise expand their operations.
Michael Green, the manager of the fund, says that Crabman 305 will be the ideal anchor tenant for the THRIVE campus, a new outdoor food area in Opa-locka, across from the Tri-Rail station and near the upcoming Amazon distribution center.
And what does JP Morgan Chase get out of its investment?
“Connecting underrepresented small businesses with the resources and capital they need to grow is not only good for the economic health of the community, but it’s also good business,” said Carlos Alzate, head of Chase Business Banking in South Florida. “Over the past several years, Chase has referred hundreds of small businesses to our trusted CDFI partners, and we’re pleased that many come back to Chase for a small business loan when the time is right.”
Logan says that the business fund will keep seeking new ways to find investment and that the organization hopes to double its capital by the end of the year.
“This is a continuing effort,” he said. “We want our businesses to be successful.”