Bank officials and more gather in Fresno Friday to cut the ribbon on the Grameen American Bank located inside the Downtown Business Hub in Downtown Fresno. Photo by Frank Lopez

published on September 24, 2019 - 2:20 PM
Written by Frank Lopez

Microfinance company Grameen America, in partnership with Bank of the West, held a ribbon cutting ceremony in Downtown Fresno Friday to celebrate the grand opening of its first branch in the area.

The new Grameen American Bank, located in the Downtown Business Hub building, 1444 Fulton St., is using $500,000 from Bank of the West to open the new branch with a goal to develop and grow women-owned business in the Central Valley.

Bank of the West is investing $2 million to help serve low-income women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

“Bank of the West has been instrumental to aiding our growth into Fresno and addressing our shared commitment to financial inclusion across the country,” said Andrea Jung, president and CEO of Grameen America. “We know that access to capital is critical for women and families for whom the mainstream financial system is out of reach. With a hand up, women can transform their lives to build businesses that lift their communities and create multigenerational change.”

The Grameen America Fresno branch is setting a goal to serve 500 women in its first year by disbursing $727,000 in microloans to low income female entrepreneurs in Fresno.

The Fresno branch will be Grameen’s sixth location in California and its 23rd branch in the U.S.

Muhammad Yunus, who was present at the ribbon cutting ceremony in Fresno, founded Grameen America in 2008.

Yunus is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker and economist. He is the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and a Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.

Nandita Bakhshi, president and CEO of Bank of the West, said her institution already has a presence in Fresno, and now that it has partnered with Grameen America, it will be getting into micro finance.

Bakhshi says that with more economic opportunities for women, and women in entrepreneurship, quality of life will increase for many people.

“I’ve seen first hand the impact of giving women the power to start a business, have financial independence—it gives them confidence and a voice, Bakhshi said. “When that happens, that has a ripple effect on the community, and society.”

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