First Financial sets a side $100,000 for small businesses

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MAYOR KAREN FREEMAN-WILSON (center) and Gary leaders support First Financial’s program to provide loans to small businesses.

By Giavonni Nickson

Supporting small business is a top priority for the City of Gary. Just a few months ago Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson announced a proposed partnership with First Financial Bank, N.A. to support small business in the city. That partnership has now been confirmed.

Freeman-Wilson and representatives of First Financial Bank, N.A. announced the partnership during a press conference held at the Gary Branch of the bank on West Ridge Road.

The City of Gary and First Financial Bank, N.A. agreed to financially support Gary businesses and residents participating in the Gary Microenterprise Initiative (GMI).

The Gary Microenterprise Initiative (GMI) helps entrepreneurs put their ideas into action within a 12-week new business development program. GMI provides fundamental training for entrepreneurs in all business industries.

Small business employs 60% of the U.S. workforce and thrive with financial support.

The partnership with First Financial presents financial support to grow established business in the city while supporting start-up business. The city’s partnership with First Financial will establish a Micro-Loan pool making $100,000 available. The funds are renewable annually to existing and start-up small businesses.

Business owners will be able to borrow funds in $10,000 increments with up to $20,000 per business upon approval. The program will allow some flexibility with the deployment of funds.

“We thank First Financial Bank for its continued commitment to the Gary community,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.” “As we work to improve the economic state of the city, this collaboration presents an awesome opportunity for Gary businesses, residents and the city of Gary.”

The Mayor also thanked and congratulated members of the Gary team for their dedicated work on this project.

The Micro-Loan program is designed to assist small, minority and at-risk businesses within the Gary community. Additionally, the funds target businesses that may not qualify for traditional bank financing due to loan size limits, credit conditions or other terms.

“The micro-business loan program has a profound impact on new and existing small businesses within the local community,” said Roddell McCullough, Senior Vice President, Community Development Director.” “First Financial Bank is proud to be part of this great opportunity to invest in entrepreneurs as the health and growth of minority and small businesses also have a direct impact on employment, economic strength and generational wealth. We’re pleased to assist in improving lives in the communities we serve.”

While First Financial Bank will operate with its proprietary standard micro-loan application, the City of Gary has developed a comprehensive preliminary vetting application for candidates to submit to a 9-member screening committee. The Gary Micro-Loan program information and application package will be available on the city’s website, www.garyin.us.

GMI is a free program for Gary residents and business owners interested in starting or expanding small businesses. For information about the GMI program contact Diana Sandlin at 219-881-1312.

To inquire about economic development opportunities in Gary, please contact the Department of Commerce at 219-881-1367.

Giavonni Nickson

Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.

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