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Charlotte Area News
Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

BofA Makes Grants To Spur Small Biz Lending

Getting a small business loan is still extremely difficult in today's economy - particularly for entrepreneurs just starting out. But in the coming weeks Bank of America expects to start awarding $10 million in grants to a special group of nonprofits that should make small business loans easier to come by. "Small" is a good word for Abbie Doyle's business on many levels. . . right down to the tiny beads, and silver clasps that fill her shop. She sells materials for people to make their own jewelry. Doyle opened My Garden of Beadin' four years ago in Hendersonville with the help of a $25,000 small business loan she got through a nonprofit lender called MountainBizWorks. These days commercial banks don't want to take a risk on an entrepreneur with big dreams and empty pockets. Plus, regulators are requiring banks to keep a lot more cash on hand. So nonprofit lenders are really the only option left for entrepreneurs in need of a start-up loan, says MountainBizWorks director Shaw Canale. "So we're getting - at MountainBizWorks - more referrals for loans these banks can't make they'll refer that customer to us possibly to borrow," explains Canale. In order to make those riskier loans, nonprofit lenders often turn to the U.S. government and borrow money from the Small Business Administration or Department of Agriculture. But here's the catch: the government requires the nonprofit lender to have 15 percent of the loan in reserve in case an entrepreneur goes bust and can't pay back the loan. That's where Bank of America comes in. It plans to give money to nonprofit lenders money to fill their reserve funds. Bank of America is promising a total of $10 million in grants, which may not sound like much. But through the magic of financial leverage, that money could help nonprofit lenders tap $100 million from the government. And that will make for a lot of the $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000 loans small businesses need to get off the ground.