The National Urban League announces launch of a new small business lending arm
ABOVE PHOTO: Donald Bowen (insert.)
National Urban League
The National Urban League, the nation’s largest historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization, today announced the launch of its first subsidiary in its 103-year history, the Urban Empowerment Fund (UEF) – a new Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and small business loan fund. UEF was created to fill a credit gap which has widened in recent years as a result of the continual fallout from the Great Recession, disproportionately impacting many minority-owned small businesses and those operating in underserved communities.
UEF will provide financing and technical assistance to help small business owners create sustainable companies and vibrant communities nationwide across the markets it serves. Donald Bowen, the National Urban League’s Chief Program Officer since 2006, has been appointed as President and CEO of the UEF, effective May 2.
“The creation of the Urban Empowerment Fund is historic for the National Urban League as it allows us to deepen our community impact by directly supporting small businesses – the drivers of our economy – through financing and other resources they need to thrive long-term,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “Don Bowen has been a transformational leader within the National Urban League, and I am confident that he has the vision, commitment and drive necessary to ensure the success and growth of the UEF.”
Bowen served as the President and CEO of the Urban League of Broward County from 1991 to 2006 and helped build the affiliate into one of the strongest and most impactful Urban League organizations in the country.
“The advent of the Urban Empowerment Fund allows the National Urban League to build upon its legacy role as a social service intermediary to become a financial intermediary,” said Bowen. “Thus, we have a new and powerful set of tools to impact local communities and advance the mission of promoting economic parity.”
UEF will complement and build upon the National Urban League’s successful signature
Entrepreneurship Center Program, which offers business management consulting and training services to the 10,000 small businesses served by the Centers on an annual basis. The Centers currently operate in 10 affiliate markets, including Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Philadelphia. UEF will employ a phased market entry strategy initially focusing on these markets and eventually extending to all markets served by the National Urban League’s 95 local affiliates.
“Our goal is to establish a $50 million loan fund in five years,” said Bowen. “We are appreciative of the support from and partnership with our founding sponsors – Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo – and look forward to the positive impact that we will have together on minority-owned small businesses in communities across the country.”
UEF Statements from Founding Sponsors:
Bank of America – “We are pleased to be a founding sponsor of the Urban Empowerment Fund – helping to connect entrepreneurs to the technical assistance and capital needed to start and grow their businesses,” said Dan Letendre, CDFI Executive for Bank of America. “We value our long-term partnership with the National Urban League and look forward to sustaining our partnership to promote economic vitality in communities across the nation.”
Citi – “Citi Community Development applauds the launch of the Urban Empowerment Fund and Don Bowen’s selection to be its president,” said Natalie Abatemarco, managing director of Citi Community Development. “The Urban Empowerment Fund will devote 100 percent of its capital to loans for small businesses in low-income communities across the country, prioritizing its activities in the areas of greatest economic distress. In his new role as UEF CEO, Don Bowen can be depended upon to use his talents as an organization builder to ensure a fast start as the UEF aims to fill a credit gap in African American and other communities of color that has widened in recent years.”
JPMorgan Chase – “Partnering with the National Urban League to support the new Urban Empowerment Fund is another way JPMorgan Chase is helping American small businesses succeed,” said Scott Geller, CEO of Chase Business Banking. “We are proud to work with millions of small companies who are fueling the economic recovery in communities across the country, and we know this fund will make a positive impact on many more.”
Wells Fargo – “As one of the founding sponsors and an early advisor, we congratulate UEF as it embarks on this important endeavor to positively impact our country’s economic recovery by helping small businesses succeed,” said Jon Campbell, executive vice president, Government and Community Relations, Wells Fargo. “We have a long history of supporting small business CDFIs like UEF because they provide the necessary technical assistance and flexible financing these small businesses need to get started and grow.”
For more information on UEF’s services and offerings, send inquiries to UEFinfo@nul.org.
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