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First Niagara announces $150,000 microloan investment to serve small business owners in Buffalo

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Thu, Sep 3rd 2015 04:55 pm

Bank will make funds available to encourage small business creation and growth on city's West Side

First Niagara Financial Group Inc. announced it is providing microloan funding for the Westminster Economic Development Initiative to boost small business creation on Buffalo's West Side. The bank will make $100,000 available to businesses that do not qualify for conventional funding. Loan amounts will range up to $15,000. An additional $50,000 will be provided as a line of credit for WEDI.

WEDI will partner with First Niagara to administer the loan funds to new or existing businesses in the City of Buffalo that meet specific requirements. WEDI also will provide general business training with access to coaches and other forms of specialty business support.

All businesses that apply for loans go through financial capability training, create or review a business plan, and create financial projections for the business/project with WEDI staff members. After being approved for the loan, the business owners will then be matched with a volunteer business coach who will help them achieve their goals over the term of the loan.

"WEDI is honored to partner with First Niagara as the lender for this fund. This microloan will help make it possible for many more Buffalo residents to realize their entrepreneurial potential with access to funds that will help them grow their businesses," said Ben Bissell, executive director of Westminster Economic Development Initiative. "We look forward to supporting these start-up businesses and expanding those already in place in economically disadvantaged communities that will help revitalize those areas."

"First Niagara is committed to Buffalo's revitalization and to enhancing the vibrancy and diversity of our city," said Buford Sears, First Niagara regional president, Western New York. "We are thrilled to partner with WEDI to make this important investment in our community by creating a new source of entrepreneurial opportunity in Buffalo."

WEDI has established guidelines for loan distribution, which will focus on businesses that are owned by economically disadvantaged individuals who have real or perceived barriers to accessing traditional bank loans. They will also prioritize businesses that will hire economically disadvantaged individuals. WEDI also seeks to identify businesses that benefit the common good.

Bissell said 80 percent of WEDI's past loan clients (since January 2013) have been minorities, 4 percent were service-disabled veterans, 84 percent were low-income and 16 percent were previously unemployed.

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