NI to invest in diverse entrepreneurs

Northern Initiatives President Dennis West accepts the 2016 Small Business Administration District Director’s Award at the District Director’s office in Detroit. Pictured with him are Lead Lender Relations Specialist Romy Ancog and Michigan District Director Constance Logan. (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — A $316,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business: Diverse Community Capital Program will help Northern Initiatives invest in diverse small business owners and entrepreneurs, according to a press release from the organization.

It also brings Northern Initiatives into a national learning network of other Community Development Financial Institutions selected for the program, the release said.

Northern Initiatives, which provides small business loans and knowledge-building resources to starting and growing businesses, will devote the funds to increase access to capital for African American, Latino and underserved entrepreneurs across Michigan, with a strong focus on the diverse communities of Muskegon and Grand Rapids.

Northern Initiatives is one of 14 Community Development Financial Institutions nationwide who received $9.5 million worth of Diverse Community Capital funding from Wells Fargo to build financial, operational and human capacity in order to better serve diverse small businesses.

“Access to capital is one of the leading barriers minority entrepreneurs face when looking to start and grow a business,” said Dennis West, president of Northern Initiatives. “We provide loans and business services to entrepreneurs and small business owners who might not qualify for traditional financing, and with help from the Diverse Community Capital Program, we will be able to increase access to capital for minority and underserved borrowers.”

A portion of the $316,000 grant from Wells Fargo will go toward language translation of Northern Initiatives’ loan materials for persons of Limited English Proficiency. In other words, a Latino entrepreneur who speaks very little English, will have easy access to the Spanish version of NI’s online loan application, making the process of application quicker and easier.

Dan Torres is an example of a diverse business owner who received support from NI to start and grow Border Grill, a fresh and authentic Mexican restaurant with three locations in Marquette County. As a startup business, Torres didn’t qualify for a bank loan, so he turned to Northern Initiatives.

“Border Grill wouldn’t exist without Northern Initiatives,” Torres said. For 20-plus years in the restaurant industry, Torres has made Border Grill the go-to for “real” food in a “fast-casual” atmosphere.

“At Wells Fargo, we believe you must be a great corporate citizen in order to be a great business,” Wells Fargo Regional President Sang Kim said. “That’s why we’ve committed over three years to distribute a total of $75 million in lending and grant capital over six selection rounds to Community Development Financial Institutions. This is the third of those six rounds, and this grant we have made to Northern Initiatives is going to enable people in Michigan with the dream of owning and growing a business achieve those dreams.”

Northern Initiatives is a Community Development Financial Institution that provides loans and knowledge building services to underserved startup and growing small businesses throughout Michigan, the release said.

For more information about Northern Initiatives, visit www.northerninitiatives.org/