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Local economic development professionals pose with an oversized check from Wells Fargo Wednesday in Fresno. Photo by Breanna Hardy

published on November 3, 2021 - 1:57 PM
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This morning, Wells Fargo presented a round of grants – part of its national Open for Business Fund – to four Fresno organizations in an effort to support minority-owned businesses. 

Wells Fargo has already been the source of $1.5 million in grants this year for Access Plus Capital, but it will give an additional $1.75 million Open for Business grants to four select Fresno organizations – a total $3.25 million.

The Open for Business Fund comprises roughly $420 million to help small businesses recover from the pandemic. It was generated out of Paycheck Protection Program fees, said Jenny Flores, head of small business growth philanthropy for Wells Fargo. 

 Today, the recipients were the Asian Business Institute and Resource Institute Center, Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation, Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce and Valley Small Business Development Corporation.

Flores said that Wells Fargo has taken the PPP fees and is investing them in three ways. Wells Fargo gave $250 million to support Community Development Financial Institutions so they could lend capital at no more than 3% interest. It also designated $55 million in technical assistance and eventually will be crafting a program that will help businesses build their wealth. 

“We’re doing all of these things, and in combination I think it’s a very powerful way to ensure small businesses can succeed,” Flores said.

Open for Business Fund grants aim to help minority-owned small businesses who have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. The grants provide access to capital, technical expertise and recovery resources. 

The Wells Fargo fund is projected to help 148,000 small businesses and estimated to save 253,000 jobs nationwide. 

Dr. Cassandra Little, CEO of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, said she’s working on defining technical assistance for the chamber’s business community. 

“We’re building an ecosystem of resource partners,” Little said. “It takes a village.” 

The chamber is working with people who agree to sign a memorandum of understanding as a resource partner who then share their skills and services with the chamber’s business community. Some are accountants, social media or marketing experts.

Tara Lynn Gray, past CEO of the Black Chamber and current director in the Office of the Small Business Advocate for the Newsom administration in Sacramento, said that at the state level, there is tremendous support for small businesses. 

“We have the largest small business focused budget ever in the history of the Office of the Small Business Advocate. It is fitting for the fifth largest economy in the world to make the kind of investment that the governor and the legislature are making in small business,” Gray said. 

Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula said the pandemic has made the public realize how critical the role of small businesses are to the community.

They are the backbone, the job creators and innovators of the Central Valley’s economy, he said.

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