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National Development Council, WA Dept. of Commerce Receive Award for Washington Small Business Loan Program

SEATTLE, Sept. 26, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) has recognized Washington's Small Business Flex Fund with an industry award for its positive contributions to the state's economic recovery. Earlier this week at the IEDC's Excellence in Economic Development Awards, the National Development Council (NDC) and the Washington State Department of Commerce shared a Gold Award in Economic Equity & Inclusion for their work with the Flex Fund.

IEDC's Economic Equity & Inclusion award recognizes programs dedicated to improving the quality of life within a community through focused, innovative, and inclusive initiatives that incorporate the unique experiences and knowledge of underserved members of the community. These programs promote economic equity and inclusion and/or provide increased access to government and community resources to an underserved populace.

"In the earliest development stages of the Small Business Flex Fund, we knew that this program was going to be a game changer for Washington State, especially for business owners in communities that historically haven't had access to working capital," says Daniel Marsh, president and CEO of NDC. "It's an honor to receive this prestigious award from our peers at IEDC, and it validates the work that we have believed in from the start."

"Hearing the inspirational stories of business owners who have benefited from Flex Fund loans is its own kind of reward, and this honor from the IEDC is even more affirmation of our work," says Washington State Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown. "We are grateful for our ongoing collaboration with the NDC and this recognition from IEDC's voting body for the Flex Fund's tremendous impact on so many of our state's small businesses." 

The Flex Fund was launched last year as a partnership between the NDC and the Department of Commerce as an equitable pandemic recovery program for Washington's smallest businesses, primarily in historically underbanked communities. The Fund currently has nearly $45 million in available loans for eligible small businesses, and application deadlines have been extended through March 2023 so that more business owners can take advantage of this unique public-private partnership.

Since its inception, the Fund has distributed $57 million in low-interest loans to nearly 700 businesses, 80% of which are owned by immigrants, women and people of color. Financial commitments from Heritage Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Umpqua Bank, WaFd Bank, KeyBank and Wells Fargo recently pushed the Fund's total to $105 million, exceeding its initial goal of $100 million. Similarly structured loan programs have also found success in California, New York, Connecticut and several southern states.

"We created this Flex Fund to help more small businesses obtain affordable capital, particularly those small businesses within underbanked communities," said Gov. Jay Inslee. "As the state's economy continues to recover from this unprecedented economic challenge, the Small Business Flex Fund continues to be sure disproportionately impacted communities aren't left behind."

The International Economic Development Council is the world's largest nonprofit professional association for economic developers. The Excellence in Economic Development Awards were judged by an international panel of economic and community developers, and the winners were recognized Sept. 18-21 during the IEDC's annual industry conference in Oklahoma City. 

"Communities need our profession now more than ever. This year's awardees exemplify the ingenuity, leadership, and determination needed to meet the challenges of today and the future. The winners of IEDC's Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the best of economic development and demonstrate the level of leadership that our profession strives for every day," says IEDC President and CEO Nathan Ohle.

IEDC received over 500 award submissions from five countries.

For more information on the Small Business Flex Fund, and to hear stories from loan recipients, visit SmallBusinessFlexFund.org.

About the Small Business Flex Fund

The Small Business Flex Fund provides access to flexible, low-interest loans and business support services to small businesses and nonprofits across Washington. Supported by the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Fund is a collaborative partnership of local and national community finance organizations created to support Washington's smallest businesses and address the needs of historically under-resourced and underbanked communities. The Fund includes leaders from across sectors, including local community lenders, national and state-based nonprofit organizations, corporations, philanthropic donors, and investors ? all of whom are passionate about an equitable recovery across the state.

SOURCE The Small Business Flex Fund

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