Community Banks Team Up to Boost Minority Business Lending

A group of four normally competing community banks on Tuesday launched an unprecedented program aimed at funneling more money into minority-owned businesses. 

Together, BCT-Bank of Charles Town, the Bank of Clarke County, The Fauquier Bank and First Bank have put in $1 million to provide interest-free loans as part of the new Banking On Diversity initiative. 

The funding is intended to aid both startup and existing minority-owned small businesses. The program also will include educational seminars to support the evolution of the business. 

BCT President and CEO Alice Frazier said the idea began to come together during last summer’s protests and national conversation about social injustice following the death of George Floyd while in police custody. In searching for ways local bankers could make a difference, the minority business outreach program was developed. While there was no template for the the unusual step of partnering with other banks, she said the program is taking down the competition level a little bit to benefit the community.

“As community banks, we’re only as strong as the communities we serve,” added Bank of Clarke County President and CEO Brandon Lorey.

Frazier said many of the targeted businesses have launched on a bootstrap and rely on funding from family and friends. A boost in capital could help them get their businesses to the next level with the purchase of needed equipment or the ability to hire an employee. 

Both bankers said the education piece of the program is important. Not only will the bank staffers help business owners through the loan process, but they will also offer training on developing business plans and proformas and other expertise. 

The program is open to businesses in the banks’ service areas with Minority Business Enterprise certifications and annual revenues under $1 million for businesses or under $500,000 for farms. Loans of up to $50,000 are available for businesses that have been up and running for more than two years and up to $10,000 for startups with at least three months of operations. 

The application process opened Tuesday. Those interested may apply on the website of a participating bank in their community or by stopping in at a local branch office. In Loudoun, the interested businesses should go to mybct.bank or bankofclarke.bank.

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