Ajo Copper News Features CIC Lending

Alternative financing available for Ajo area businesses

Ajo Copper News branded image

Community Investment Corporation of Tucson’s stated goal is “to promote economic inclusion for all members of southern Arizona, regardless of socioeconomic status.” They say their work “ensures that more people in our community can buy homes, can access the education they want for their children, and can get the funding they need to start, sustain, and grow their small businesses.” CIC (cictucson.org) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded in 1996.

Brandi Szymanski, CIC’s rural lending manager, came to Ajo last week for the Ajo District Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting to explain more about the many ways some of CIC’s programs may benefit Ajo area individuals and businesses. She said CIC became aware of the recent border closure and its impact on Ajo area businesses and wanted to step in to help. CIC’s three program areas are housing, entrepreneurship, and education. Szymanski’s focus at last week’s meeting was on entrepreneurship, specifically small business financing.

CIC offers low interest alternative financing for business owners who do not qualify for traditional bank loans. Their small business lending program provides access to capital at competitive interest rates with flexible terms and provides lending solutions for organizations of every size. Small business loans are offered in amounts $500-100,000 for 1-5 years at fixed interest rates of 8-10%. Documents required during the application process include establishing a time in business of at least 6 months (though startups may be considered on an exception basis), proof of a business bank account, collateral, proof of business taxes, a profit and loss statement, balance sheet, registered business or trade name, and a credit check (no minimum score is required). If a business is less than two years old, a business plan is required.

Understanding that the process can be daunting, CIC offers flexibility and support during the application process, including assistance in preparing documents. Szymanski emphasized three considerations before seeking funding: how much money is needed, how the money will be spent, and what collateral is available.

In addition to small business lending, CIC offers a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community managed loan fund. The fund offers interest-free microloans of $500-10,000 with a “storytelling-based application.” No documents are required to apply, and support will be provided in preparing documents during the application process. At least 50% of business ownership must identify as BIPOC to be eligible. BIPOC loans require proof of a business bank account, a profit & loss statement, and a registered business or trade name prior to being given funding. Credit checks, collateral, and loan fees are not required, and a business can be in any stage, including startups.

BIPOC exemplifies characterbased lending, an underwriting approach where a borrower’s personal qualities, community reputation, and other factors beyond credit scores and collateral are given greater emphasis. A volunteer committee make decisions regarding the loan fund. Potential borrowers may apply via video or audio as well as in writing.

Brandi Szymanski of Community Investment Corporation was a guest speaker at the Ajo District Chamber of Commerce’s January meeting. CofC director Bo Johnson (left) and Brian Kerr (right) of Z89.3 were among those who attended. Photo courtesy of Ajo Copper News

For either small business or BIPOC loans, and for those who aren’t quite ready for their first loan, CIC offers referrals to business education courses and other resources. The CIC website offers information about starting a business, understanding finances, as well as how loans work.

Szymanski emphasized CIC’s motto “We Know Your Worth” by relaying that CIC is concerned about what’s best for applicants, and that if CIC turns out not to be the best option for someone, CIC will work with an individual to find alternatives.

Following her presentation, she welcomed comments and questions about her organization. Aaron Cooper, executive director of ISDA spoke about how responsive CIC has been to Ajo, having collaborated with ISDA several times in the past. In fact, CIC funds helped keep the Plaza going, he said.

Cristal Franco, Ajo Business Support Center’s manager, told the Ajo Copper News that the business center is considering offering either virtual or in-person office hours to CIC and that “they’ve been a very helpful partner.”

Szymanski encouraged anyone with questions or curiosity about CIC assistance to email her at brandi@cictucson.org or call her at 520-529-1766 extension 216.

Originally published in Ajo Copper News.