Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pathway invests in low-income entrepreneurs

Clint Gwin is the president of Nashville-based Pathway Lending, a nonprofit lender formerly called Southeast Community Capital that raises capital from financial institutions and the state to lend out to small-business owners in Tennessee.
It got started more than 10 years ago under the Southeast Community Capital name as a micro-lender in Oak Ridge designed for entrepreneurs. It has since grown to make loans to 350 businesses, many of them in low-income or rural areas.

The organization estimates it has helped create 1,500 jobs and keep 3,200 other jobs in place by financing the employers.

Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration has announced new public-private funds this year that will nearly triple the nonprofit's available capital for lending, to $75 million.

Gwin talked with Tennessean banking and finance reporter Naomi Snyder about those funds, what Pathway Lending does, and his dealings with a controversial new firm headed by Reagan Farr, former state revenue commissioner, who reportedly will help solar companies find investors.

How was Pathway Lending founded?

We were founded in December 1999 in Oak Ridge as part of a comprehensive entrepreneurship program. The entrepreneurs were struggling to access capital, and Technology 2020 created Southeast Community Capital to bring capital together and make it available in the Oak Ridge-Knoxville area.

We started as a micro-lender with half a million dollars in capital; and we made loans for $35,000 and less. We continued to grow and attract capital from lending institutions. The individual behind it was Tom Rogers, who was the founding CEO of Technology 2020. He is now with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

How did it move to Nashville?

I joined in 2002 after almost 11 years with the FDIC as a bank regulator. We were seeing a lot of requests from rural parts of the state. At the same time, the state of Tennessee — Matt Kisber's group at (the Department of Economic and Community Development) — also was seeing a lot of those requests. We both started talking about what we could do to make sure the rural parts of the state had access to capital.

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