A new federal program hopes to give a boost to small businesses in Baltimore and Los Angeles.

Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator, discusses helping underserved communities. (Courtesy photo)

Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator, discusses helping underserved communities. (Courtesy photo)

The U.S. Small Business Administration and the Milken Institute recently announced the Partnership for Lending in Underserved Markets, or PLUM. The plan, which was announced Sept. 27 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in Baltimore, is a collaboration intended to develop and test ways to provide capital to Black-owned businesses.

With a focus on Baltimore and Los Angeles, the long-term goal of PLUM is to increase the capacity of lenders to better serve underdeveloped sectors of the small business community.  Baltimore and Los Angeles were chosen because their economies also impact surrounding communities and can help drive growth in their larger regional economies.

Jody Davis, a Baltimore business owner, said she hopes to expand her store by getting a larger space and having a mixed-use shop with retail on the bottom and home ownership on top.

“The challenge is I am a one woman show…and growing a business is not always easy and getting the financing is also challenging,” she explained. “We go to these meetings and you hear all this stuff about helping small businesses but then when you go to seek the help, you don’t get it.”

“My administration is committed to creating greater access to capital and business opportunities for Baltimore City’s small, minority, and women-owned businesses,” Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake said at the event announcing the program. “And partnering with the Small Business Administration and Milken Institute to launch the PLUM initiative provides an opportunity to connect minority entrepreneurs and traditionally underrepresented business communities to programs that encourage their growth.”

The Milken Institute is expected to provide direction, research and engagement to small businesses receiving lending in underserved markets.

“Increasing access to capital in underserved communities continues to be one of my highest priorities. Solving this longstanding and persistent challenge would open the door for new ideas, new visionary voices, and revolutionary business innovations from historically unexpected places.” said Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the Small Business Administration and a member of the President’s cabinet.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953. Since 2012, it has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of the nation.