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Lt. Gov. Gilchrist Joins Public, Private Partners to Launch New $10 Million Microloan Fund for Women, Veterans, and Entrepreneurs of Color


March 16, 2023


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Lt. Gov. Gilchrist Joins Public, Private Partners to Launch New $10 Million Microloan Fund for Women, Veterans, and Entrepreneurs of Color



DETROIT, Mich – Today, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II joined Michigan Women Forward (MWF), the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Huntington Bank, and the Ballmer Group to announce the launch of the new $10 million Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund, a microbusiness loan program for women and entrepreneurs of color in Michigan. Entrepreneurs will be able to apply for up to $50,000 in loans through this program. With the average loan managed by MWF being $25,000, the Fund will be able to assist approximately 400 entrepreneurs.



“To build a strong economy, we need to make sure that every Michigander can be part of our state's economic momentum. That's why we are making this investment today to help women, veterans, and entrepreneurs of color start and grow their successful businesses,” said Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist. “Team Michigan, together with our community and economic partners, is making it clear that here, in Michigan, we welcome people of all backgrounds to launch their ideas and build their futures in our great state.”



The Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund will be managed by Michigan Women Forward, a certified community development financial institution (CDFI) by processing applications that come through its website, along with referrals made by its banking institution partners. Launch partner, Huntington National Bank, will provide an additional pool of applicants through its Lift Local Business® program that supports minority-, women- and veteran-owned small businesses. 



“Providing access to capital for small businesses that impact the economy in our communities is important to Huntington. Programs like the Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund are excellent resources to aid business owners who may not otherwise qualify for traditional loans through banks or other financial institutions,” said Sandy Pierce, senior executive vice president and chair of Michigan at Huntington Bank. “We are proud to work with Michigan Women Forward, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the Ballmer Group to bring this new lending solution to fruition.”



The fund will provide opportunities for those who are socially and economically disadvantaged due to a lack of access to capital and credit, as well as boost the economy throughout Michigan, including cities with low-income populations including but not limited to Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Midland, Pontiac, Saginaw, and Ypsilanti. 



“We know that systemic inequities impede access, opportunity, and outcomes in economic mobility,” said Kylee Mitchell Wells, executive director of Ballmer Group Southeast Michigan. “CDFIs play a vital role in ensuring that low-cost capital is available to more communities and individuals – such as entrepreneurs of color and women – who have been locked out of traditional capital markets. We are thrilled to support this fund as part of Ballmer Group’s commitment to working with government, nonprofit, and business partners to help strengthen our communities.”



As the managing organization, MWF will have more flexibility with lending to entrepreneurs than traditional financial institutions allowing microbusinesses the same opportunity as larger companies. 



The Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund will lend to individuals who don’t qualify for traditional loans through banks or other financial institutions. Last year, the nonprofit organization provided 88 loans for $2.456 million invested in primarily women-owned businesses.



"The Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund will change the trajectory of a Michigan small business owner,” said Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of MWF. “This funding will build a sustainable business, generate wealth for that individual, and ultimately, impact the state’s economy and create jobs in the communities in which we live.” 



The business microloan program includes a $1.5 million investment from launch partner, Huntington National Bank, grant support from Ballmer Group of $1.5 million and a $1.5 million State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) loan participation, in addition to a $1 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). An additional $2 million from other private funders will be announced later in 2023.  



“Starting and growing a business takes grit, courage and tenacity – and here in Michigan, that runs deep in our DNA,” said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). “By taking a truly Team Michigan approach, this new fund will facilitate more risk-takers across the state in acquiring access to the capital and support they need to be successful and build a future right here in Michigan. Work remains to aid microbusinesses, but this is a significant and praiseworthy start.”



The SSBCI program provides federal funding to states to empower small businesses to access capital needed to invest in job-creating opportunities as the country emerges from the pandemic. The funding comes as part of the federal government’s “SSBCI 2.0” program, for which Michigan received its first round of funding in August 2022. The SSBCI funds being contributed to the Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund will promote entrepreneurship and democratize access to startup capital, including for those in traditionally underserved communities. 



Women and entrepreneurs of color can apply for Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund loans by visiting All applicants must submit an application form, demographic information, personal financial statements, business plan with projections and other supporting documentation for consideration. Questions about the program can be emailed to or by calling 313-962-1920.



About Michigan Women Forward


MWF was founded in 1986 by 20 extraordinary visionaries who conceived of an organization that would encourage women to play an active role in philanthropy and governance. MWF is a certified community development financial institution (CDFI) whose mission is to expand economic opportunity for women and entrepreneurs of color, empower the next generation, and celebrate and honor the accomplishments of Michigan women. For more information, visit



About Michigan Development Economic Corporation (MEDC)


The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at Join the conversation on: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter



About Huntington National Bank


Huntington Bancshares Incorporated is a $183 billion asset regional bank holding company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 1866, The Huntington National Bank and its affiliates provides customers, small and middle-market businesses, corporations, municipalities, and other organizations with a comprehensive suite of banking, payments, wealth management, and risk management products and services. Huntington operates more than 1,000 branches in 11 states, with certain businesses operating in extended geographies. Visit for more information. 



About Ballmer Group


Ballmer Group is committed to improving economic mobility for children and families in the United States, funding leaders and organizations that have demonstrated the ability to reshape opportunity and reduce systemic inequities. We focus on multiple impact areas and systems that can impact economic mobility - such as early learning, K-12 education, college and career pathways, housing, behavioral health, and criminal justice - and we support leaders and organizations that focus on undoing systemic racism and the barriers it has created. Ballmer Group is both a national and regional funder – we have a presence and invest deeply in southeast Michigan, Washington state, and Los Angeles County. Ballmer Group was co-founded by philanthropist Connie Ballmer and her husband Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, founder of USAFacts, and chairman of the Los Angeles Clippers. Learn more at