In February 2015, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos hosted Minority Small Business Roundtable discussions in Rockford and Peoria. Our office learned access to capital was a challenge for the minority business communities in both cities. In response, the Congresswoman hosted the Minority Small Business Assistance Workshop in August 2016, and proved to be very beneficial for the Peoria community.
In late 2016, we followed up with small businesses in the Rockford area, and owners reiterated that an event promoting access to capital would be beneficial.
In 2015, the Small Business Administration issued over $23 billion in 7(a) Regular SBA loans. The Hispanic/Latino community received only 5% of those funds; the African American community received fewer than 2% of those funds, down from 8% in 2008. Small businesses account for over half of the sales in the United States, and in Illinois, small businesses represent 2.4 million jobs – 46% of the jobs throughout the state. As of 2012, the SBA states that only 36% of businesses are owned by women, and only 10.5% of those businesses have paid employees.
This workshop brought together business owners, lenders from Alpine Bank, Rockford Bank & Trust, Rockford Local Development Corporation, and ACCION, as well as representatives from the Small Business Administration (SBA), to address access to capital within the minority business community.
The experts on hand highlighted different lending resources available to prospective borrowers as well as the components of a successful loan application. By helping women and minority business owners gain access to the tools and resources they need to grow their businesses, we can help grow our regional economy and build up capital within the community.
For its part, Alpine Bank continues to add resources and team members to assist women and minority business owners. In 2012, Alpine hired experienced not-for-profit SBA and local micro-lender, Brenten Witherby, and quickly regained status as one of the top SBA lenders in the State of Illinois. Cesar Sanchez, Small Business Development Officer, spends every day searching for ways to make loans more accessible throughout our entire community. Most recently, Martesha Brown joined the Alpine Bank family as Community Outreach Officer where she is responsible for building awareness, implementing financial literacy programs, and providing opportunities to new and existing customers.