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Community Financial Resource Center prepares for 20th anniversary

Merdies Hayes | 3/6/2013, 5 p.m.

The Community Financial Resource Center (CFRC) has for two decades provided needed financial assistance for small business owners, and never before have their services been so timely.

Because of the economic downturn witnessed over the past five years, the CFRC has helped historically underserved entrepreneurs bridge the monetary gap between qualifying for a loan from a major lending institution--a feat increasingly difficult because of fluctuating investor confidence--and trying to finance a business on a "shoestring" budget.

Through micro loans, peer lending and small business loans, CFRC has provided commercial lending opportunities to more than 100,000 low-income clients.

As part of its 20th anniversary celebration on Monday, the organization will host its 2013 Power Luncheon and awards ceremony at noon at the JW Marriott at L.A Live downtown.

Chris Schauble, co-anchor of the KTLA 5 Morning News, will be master of ceremonies, with state Controller John Chiang giving a keynote address.

"Our organization helps to spur economic growth in underserved communities," said Forescee Hogan-Rowles, CFRC president and chief executive officer. "We focus on large businesses and corporations who will do business with in underserved areas, particularly South Los Angeles, but throughout Los Angeles County as well. We appreciate our sponsors and pay special tribute to them and others who have embraced our philosophy of building business and community together."

CFRC offers a range of loans from, $500 to $5,000 micro loans, to $5,000 to $30,000 seed loans, and $30,000 to $250,000 expansion loans.

Its fundraising, lending and program development efforts have realized more than $15 million in local economic activity, and the creation and retention of more than 3,400 of jobs. The economic impact of their work has resulted in nearly $120 million invested back into the county, according to findings from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Capital Partners auspice is a peer-lending program. This group-based model, patterned after a similar program under way in poverty-stricken Bangladesh, gathers three or more persons wishing to contribute to a business model. A "coach" from CFRC conducts business modules where all components of the business plan are reviewed over a six- to eight-week period.

"You'd be surprised what a $500 loan can do for a start-up business," Hogan-Rowles explained. "The small business owner typically can't get the traditional loan, but that $500 can help start you out with phone service and utilities; maybe you need a laptop, some office furniture to help you open for business. As the business grows, and if you stick with the business plan, you can rise to an expansion loan."

Participants must be in business or have a clear business plan. They must present two forms of government-issued identification, show proof of an additional source of income and provide proof of six month's residency. To qualify for a loan, they must be part of a group (usually from three to eight persons) that has formed or the participants have joined.

For a member to receive the loan, the group must unanimously agree, because it makes all loan decisions. The group can receive a new loan once all members are current with payments. To move to a higher loan step, the previous loan must have been repaid.

New business owners are urged to register and complete CFRC Capital Partners six-hour business training seminar at $75 per person. CFRC hosts regular information, orientation and training sessions.

The luncheon awards recipients will be Eric Johnson of Thatz Tyte Designs for "Outstanding Small Business Achievement," Preferred Bank ("Outstanding Community Reinvestment Partner") and Carl Dickerson of Dickerson Employee Benefits, who will receive the Robert A. McNeely Trailblazer Award.

CFRC is located at 4060 S. Figueroa St. For more information, call (323) 233-1900. The website is www.cfrc.net.