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Accion celebrates 20 years of lending

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jt093014b/biz/jim thompson/ The microlending organization Accion NM was celebrating their 20th anniversary with a blow out party under a giant tent, with fuse speakers,demonstrations and vendors all to help parse their success. Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014.(Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal.)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque-based microlending organization Accion celebrated its 20th anniversary Tuesday with a birthday bash attended by some 400 people from New Mexico and other states.

The nonprofit makes low-interest loans with flexible terms to small businesses, ranging from $200 to $500,000. Since launching in 1994, it’s made a total of 7,400 loans to nearly 5,000 businesses in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada for a total of $58 million.

“It’s a labor of love,” Accion CEO Anne Haines told celebration participants. “We’re working to bring about a world of economic inclusion where nobody is left behind.”

The organization targets people wanting to start or expand businesses who might not otherwise qualify for a loan from traditional lending institutions. It concentrates especially on minorities and women, who make up about 85 percent of all loan recipients.

Despite the small size of its loans, impact is significant in terms of job creation and business sustainability. Since 1994, Accion has helped create or sustain about 8,600 jobs. And loan repayment has traditionally hovered at more than 94 percent.

Until recently, Accion assistance focused exclusively on New Mexico, with local entrepreneurs accounting for about 72 percent of all loans and 66 percent of all capital loaned since 1994.

But the organization started expanding to surrounding states during the recession in 2008, beginning with Arizona and Colorado. It opened its latest regional office in Nevada over the summer.

“It wasn’t by accident that we started expanding during the recession,” Haines told the Journal. “There was such a crying need for access to capital by small businesses and entrepreneurs at a time when capital was so restricted. By expanding to more states, we can serve more entrepreneurs and have a wider impact.”

As Accion spreads its wings, its lending momentum is growing. The organization loaned more than $10 million to entrepreneurs in 2013, a 78 percent increase from 2012 and its largest annual total to date.

It’s set a goal of another $50 million in loans in the next five years, Accion Board Chair Michelle Coons told celebration participants.

“Today we’re in four states, but in the next four years, our footprint will continue to expand,” Coon said.

To deploy more capital over a wider area, Accion is working to raise $60 million in new capital from lending institutions, investors and donors, Haines said.

Accion employs about 30 people, the majority in New Mexico at a 7,200-square-foot building in the old Sawmill District at Old Town, where the anniversary celebration took place.

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