Loans support economic development in underserved communities


Louise Mulherin June 29, 2018

GoATL Fund (GoATL), an impact investing fund launched by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta earlier this year, has closed on its second investment. The investment to Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), a leading Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in metro Atlanta, provides loans and business advisory services to underserved entrepreneurs in order to finance the growth of small businesses.

The GoATL Fund, the first impact investing fund of its kind in Georgia, seeks to generate a measurable social outcome along with a financial return. Through impact investing, funders look for ways to strategically invest new forms of capital to scale and sustain nonprofits and social-purpose for-profits. Unlike traditional philanthropy that typically relies on grants, GoATL’s impact investments are structured as flexible, cost-effective loans that are expected to be paid back, thus recycling the dollars to consistently fund new initiatives into the future.

GoATL has committed $500,000 to support one of ACE’s most successful initiatives, the SBA Community Advantage Program, which leverages guarantees from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist Atlanta-area minority and immigrant business owners, a population that often lacks access to conventional financial services and mainstream institutions. These loans provide an important source of growth capital to allow small businesses to purchase equipment, hire employees and finance working capital. Since ACE launched in 2000, the organization has made more than $53 million in loans, creating or saving more than 7,100 jobs in Georgia.

“A key to the health and resiliency of lower income communities is the economic well-being of families,” said Mark Crosswell, managing director of social impact strategy for the Community Foundation. “ACE provides critical financial support to underserved business owners who are often turned away from traditional banks. These entrepreneurs in turn, become employers and business leaders that often are the engines that drive broader economic development for their communities.”

The GoATL Fund intends to make investments primarily through intermediaries, like ACE, or other Community Development Financial Institutions (CFDIs), that have the knowledge and expertise to effectively structure loan capital to support solutions addressing critical needs in our region.

“Finding new and innovative sources of funding is critical to maintaining Atlanta’s strong and diverse small business landscape,” said Grace Fricks, president and CEO of ACE. “Beyond funding, we work in lock-step with our borrowers to provide business development and one-on-one consulting services to ensure that our investments have the best chance at being successful. We owe that to our borrowers as well as to our financial partners like the Community Foundation who entrust us to steward these wise investments.”

In addition to financial investments, ACE also provides a full range of support services for entrepreneurs, including training in accounting, marketing, strategic planning and operations. ACE also has a network of additional resources and consultants to address specific needs of businesses. ACE works with businesses of all types and industries, from start-ups through to well-established, thriving enterprises, with a focus on underserved people and communities in the region.