ATLANTA, GA.  Georgia Green Loans, a program of Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), has been awarded a Wachovia Wells Fargo NEXT award in the category of industry innovation. NEXT awards are given to community development financial institutions who demonstrate excellence.

“Georgia Green Loans is an innovative collaboration on many levels,” ACE CEO Grace Fricks said. “Staff, board, advisory council, partners and funders have all contributed to the program’s growth and success.” Fricks accepted the award, which came with a $25,000 gift, at the Opportunity Finance Network annual conference in San Francisco on November 3, 2010.

In 2009, ACE launched Georgia Green Loans to provides capital to businesses providing an eco-friendly product or service or those who wish to operate more sustainably. One key innovation is the collaboration of ACE with two other Georgia lenders, Small Business Assistance Corporation and Albany Community Together, Inc., to provide green loans statewide.  Georgia Green Loans is governed by an advisory committee of community leaders active in green business development.

From its inception, Georgia Green Loans has been met with state and national interest. By boldly stating a commitment to sustainability, ACE attracted new partnerships and funding. One of the most outstanding is a competitive $700,000 grant from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to provide subsidized audits and low interest loans to small businesses seeking to reduce electricity use. This grant includes $400,000 of equity capital.

In recognition of ACE’s leadership, a multi-year SBA PRIME grant was awarded to create the national Academy for Green Micro-enterprise Development, which helps other organizations develop and grow their green programs. In 2010, organizations in New Orleans, Detroit, and Spokane, WA, were assisted. A five-part webinar series on various aspects of green business program development reached hundreds of other organizations across the country.

The Georgia Green Loans name and logo, with its tag line “Investing in our future” simply and visually states the program’s purpose, which is to build a strong and sustainable business community that benefits the economy as well as the environment.

ACE is an SBA Microloan Intermediary, a USDA Intermediary Relender and a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). ACE provides loans, along with business development services, to small businesses in 68 North Georgia counties. Sources of loan funds include SBA, USDA, U.S. Treasury, banks and foundations.