Posted by on 28th June, 2011

Mayor Julián Castro, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and other local political and community leaders gathered Tuesday to help ACCIÓN Texas, the nation’s largest nonprofit microlender, celebrate the opening of its new San Antonio Lending and Learning Center.

The genesis of the Lending and Learning Center speaks to the power of public/private partnerships. Last year, two small-business lenders — the city-owned South Texas Development Fund and the Community Development Loan Fund — became part of ACCIÓN. The vision for the merger was to provide a one-stop experience for business owners, allowing them to apply for and receive loans as well as technical assistance.

A portion of the campus was part of the consolidation with CDLF. Last month, ACCIÓN purchased the rest of the campus from First Universal Unitarian Housing.

The Lending and Learning Center is actually three Victorian-era houses and a carriage house, all of which have been restored and now are in use as office space. The campus is located at 225 W. Poplar St. One building holds ACCION’s San Antonio-area lending operation, which previously was housed at the organization’s headquarters on South Hackberry. Two other buildings house ACCIÓN’s small-business support services. A fourth house on the campus will be leased. A carriage house behind the main structures serves as a training room.

The Lending Center will continue providing, and, hopefully, growing, ACCIÓN’s lending services to small businesses in the San Antonio area. It’s the Learning Center, which already is up and running, that is a newer source of excitement. In short, it is an easily accessible resource that provides training, counseling and guidance to entrepreneurs, especially women and minorities, who want to start or expand their business. Business advisers offer assistance in many areas, including business plan development, business-growth processes, marketing plans, financial and human-resource management, as well as assist with certification and contracting opportunities. Non- ACCIÓN clients are eligible for assistance.

ACCIÓN, established in San Antonio in 1994, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide loans to small business owners who lack access to commercial credit. The nation’s largest nonprofit microlender, ACCIÓN has lending sites in 10 Texas cities and four in Louisiana, with a new operation set to open later this year in Arkansas. The microenterprise company offers loans from $500 to $250,000.