Iowa Microloan


Beginning in June 2006, a collaborative project emerged to identify gaps in Iowa's entrepreneurial development system, review innovative models for addressing the gaps, and develop a strategy for addressing the gaps using existing Iowa institutions, expertise, products and services as much as possible without duplicating efforts. The greatest gaps identified from surveys and interviews with lenders and technical assistance providers were:

  • Lack of capital availability for small entrepreneurs requesting less than $50,000 and some unique entrepreneurial ventures up to $250,000

  • Lack of coordination in resources and technical assistance for small entrepreneurial businesses

  • Some interest in equity capital for small businesses

The collaborative project was coordinated by three Iowa State University centers; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Community Vitality Center (CVC), and the Center for International Agricultural Finance. A steering committee of 16 leaders representing diverse interests in lending and entrepreneurial technical assistance networks provided input and shaped guiding principles into the design of a preferred business model. The project steering committee members included:

  1. Curt Heidt, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines

  2. John Sorensen, Executive Director, Iowa Bankers Association

  3. Dan Robeson, Iowa Business Growth (CDE), Johnston

  4. Rita Frahm, Ida County Economic Development Corp. & Heritage Bank, Holstein

  5. Kenneth Beekley, Siouxland Economic Development Corporation

  6. Maureen Collins–Williams, MyEntreNet & Regional Business Center-SBDC, UNI

  7. Rand Fisher, President, Iowa Area Development Group

  8. Shelley Sheehy – Homeward Inc. (CDFI spanning NW to NE Iowa)

  9. Debra Houghtaling, Grow Iowa Foundation, Inc. (CDFI in SW Iowa)

  10. Clarence McGregor, Ag Ventures Alliance (Rural Partners, Inc.-CDE) NC Iowa

  11. Don Nitchie, Northwest Iowa Area Extension Education Director

  12. Howard Van Auken, MBA Entrepreneurship Class, College of Business, ISU

  13. Ray Hanson, Ag Marketing Resource Ctr & Value-Added Ag Programs, ISUE

  14. Rich Pirog, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

  15. Dr. Mark Edelman, Community Vitality Center, ISU Extension

  16. Ron Prescott, Center for International Agricultural Finance, ISU

After exploring the interest and use of existing institutions and how to multiply the benefits of existing expertise, the Steering Committee determined that the most feasible strategy was creation of a new umbrella entity under which all existing lenders and technical assistance providers interested in microenterprise might collaborate, receive incentives, and benefit from. The new umbrella entity would potentially create a "family" of Iowa Microloan Funds under a newly created Foundation called Iowa Foundation for Microenterprise and Community Vitality (IFMCV) to provide capital and coordinate technical assistance incentives for Microenterprise startups, improvements, and expansions in Iowa.

A grant opportunity emerged during the summer of 2007 and CVC drafted a concept called the Iowa Microenterprise Assistance Project (IMAP). This initiative involves a $1 million investment in Iowa's microenterprise development system by the Northwest Area Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. The approach is consistent with NWAF priorities for developing strategies to reduce poverty. The grant provides an initial critical mass of resources for shaping a statewide umbrella microlending entity and technical assistance coordination activities necessary for generating positive outcomes.

After Securing the Grant Opportunity, the Iowa Foundation for Microenterprise and Community Vitality was founded on March 3, 2008 as an Iowa nonprofit organization. The initial Board approved bylaws, elected officers, and initiated action to apply for IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. IFMCV also initiated an application to become an SBA Microloan Intermediary and request for an initial $750,000 Microloan Fund. The innovative strategy used in the IFMCV application was to build on the experience and expertise of the Siouxland Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), which had operated a successful SBA Microloan Fund since 1993. The IFMCV application was to build on SEDC experience and develop capacity to multiply the benefits of the SEDC approach to microbusiness entrepreneurs statewide. IFMCV was approved as an SBA Microloan Intermediary on July 21, 2008 and the first Loan Fund for Iowa microbusiness entrepreneurs was created on October 10, 2008. As interest in the IowaMicroLoan program grows, IFMCV will seek opportunities to create additional loan funds and collaborations to serve the gaps in Iowa's entrepreneurial development system.

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