In a move to support Black-owned small businesses hit hard by COVID-19, Comerica Bank is making a $1 million commitment over four years to the National Business League (NBL). The accord is part of a national partnership that will launch the Black Capital Access Program (BCAP), an access to capital initiative to support Black businesses across America.
The small business program will be piloted over the next three months and reach Comerica’s five main markets of Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, and Texas. The program will be rolled out in all 50 states in 2021. Dallas-based Comerica Bank is among the nation’s largest banks. The Washington, D.C.-based NBL calls itself America’s oldest and largest trade group for Black businesses.
The commitment is a big deal as it will be the first one-stop digital platform for Black-owned businesses, says Dr. Kenneth Harris, the NBL’s president and CEO. He says BCAP will offer Black businesses access to a capital toolkit, a wide variety of technical services, financial planning information, webinars, and other services. Black businesses will be able to engage with multiple lenders, including Black-owned community banks, minority depository institutions, traditional banks, Community Development Financial Institutions, Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) lenders, and fintech companies.
He says the program will connect Black business owners with micro-loans, grants, supplier funding, venture capital, and other forms of capital aid. Harris added the support will not just come from Comerica Bank but also from the entire financial community on NBL’s online program and mobile app that will be available soon.
Curt Farmer, chairman and CEO at Comerica Inc. and Comerica Bank, stated in a news release, “Small businesses face a myriad of inherent challenges to open their doors and remain viable, and the current conditions due to COVID-19 only deepened those issues especially among African American business owners.” “We believe our partnership with the National Business League will become crucial in helping many Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs recover and survive this turbulent time.”
The NBL claims it fights for legislation and policy to promote the growth of Black businesses, while aggressively finding solutions to challenges and business problems in the marketplace. Its efforts include collaborating with policymakers and CEOs to advance Black communities’ economic interests.
The NBL’s Harris stated, “Capital access remains the most important factor limiting the establishment, expansion and growth of Black-owned businesses. As part of the organization’s mission to eliminate institutional, structural, and systemic barriers to capital, it is important to develop public and private partnerships to address the financial burden on Black entrepreneurs who are trying to keep their businesses thriving in today’s economy, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Raising capital for decades has been a lingering problem for many small companies, particularly Black American entrepreneurs looking to start or expand businesses. Harris says the BCAP wants to ensure that Black-owned businesses will benefit from being capitalized, as well as create and grow sustainable enterprises that are consistently bankable and investment-ready in the digital economy.
Irvin Ashford, Jr., Comerica Bank’s chief community officer, stated, “We believe strongly that investing financially as well as connecting our team members to offer a wide range of technical resources will enable the NBL’s Black Capital Access Program to effectively reach and serve businesses in need.”