Lender: 'Economic inclusion' can help conquer poverty - Albuquerque Journal

Lender: ‘Economic inclusion’ can help conquer poverty

Anne Haines

Anne Haines’ passion for helping small businesses from marginalized communities succeed started early.

The founder and CEO of the Albuquerque-based community development financial institution Dreamspring said she saw the impact of barriers to economic access firsthand when she moved into public housing in New York City with her family as a child. During a presentation hosted by the Economic Forum of Albuquerque last week, she recalled seeing her talented, well-educated neighbors stymied by poverty and cycles of violence.

“There were so many hopes and dreams that were extinguished,” Haines told the audience.

She said it was this passion that inspired her to found Dreamspring after relocating to New Mexico in 1994. By 2020, Dreamspring operated in 17 states has nearly 50 employees, and the growth isn’t stopping anytime soon.

Haines announced that Dreamspring is planning to grow its lending level and number of loans tenfold between 2019 and 2024. By doing so, Haines said she’s optimistic that Dreamspring will be able to foster a more inclusive environment that can offset the impact of income inequality in New Mexico and across the country.

“Nurturing entrepreneurship is a way to overcome some of the barriers to economic exclusion,” Haines said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Haines said the lender was pressed to dramatically scale up the number of loans it made to economically challenged small businesses in order to meet demand. Through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, Dreamspring provided forgivable loans totaling $64.5 million to around 1,700 New Mexico businesses. Haines said the forgivable loan funding helped save 9,990 New Mexico jobs, primarily at small businesses that had a higher risk of going under during the pandemic.

“It was passion and belief in community and belief in the interconnectedness of all of us that drove that impact,” she said.

Dreamspring intends to build on that growth over the next few years. By 2024, Dreamspring hopes to operate in all 50 states and disburse 15,700 loans totaling $216 million annually, according to materials provided by the financial institution.

So why does this matter? Not only do smaller businesses add to the unique character of a community, Haines said they also provide a vital pathway for women and people of color to reduce income inequality.

Data compiled by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation showed that economic inequality resulted in $13 trillion in economic activity being lost nationwide over the last 20 years. In New Mexico, production of goods and services could have been as much as 26% higher with lessened income inequality, Haines said.

More so than most companies, small and micro businesses have leaders who aren’t white men. Haines said during the presentation that a quarter of small and micro businesses nationwide are owned by people of color, and 40% are owned by women. Both figures are significantly higher than in larger companies, Haines said.

Because of that, Haines said the route to reducing inequality goes through the small business community and those who finance it.

“This means that we, collectively, have a tremendous opportunity for advancing economic inclusion, which has such a ripple effect on our growth,” she said.

Stephen Hamway covers economic development, health care and tourism for the Journal. He can be reached at shamway@abqjournal.com.</p>

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