BALTIMORE — The Truist Foundation has announced a $1.5 million commitment to the Accion Opportunity Fund, a certified nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) that offers capital, coaching and networks to small businesses owned by people of color, women and/or low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs.
With the grant funds, Accion Opportunity Fund will pilot a Down Payment Assistance Fund to help more Black and Latie individuals, as well as women, become first-time truck owners and entrepreneurs in Maryland and Georgia.
According to a news release, this initiative is part of an overall strategy to close gender and racial wealth gaps by investing in and supporting overlooked, underestimated entrepreneurs nationwide, a news release stated.
Maryland Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller, Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott, Truist Financial Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers and Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia gathered at Coppin State University — a historically Black university in Baltimore — to formally announce the grant and explore the impact of this work in Baltimore and beyond.
“Truist Foundation recognizes the need for more tangible resources for women and people of color entrepreneurs,” said Lynette Bell, president of Truist Foundation. “Truck drivers quite literally drive our economy, and we are honored to partner with Accion Opportunity Fund to ensure that more first-time truck owners have a path towards affordable capital. This new Down Payment Assistance Program will help create quality job opportunities in our communities and propel our local economies forward.”
Entrepreneurs of color and women have historically experienced larger barriers to obtaining finance to start or expand their businesses, the news release noted. Through the Down Payment Assistance Fund, more people will be able to participate in the trucking industry with support to fund their truck down payment costs, sustain their businesses and establish a path to economic mobility.
“We are grateful for this new relationship with Truist Foundation, which will provide critical support for women and people of color in the trucking industry,” Urrutia said. “Access to capital and resources should not be a barrier for first-time truck owners looking to drive wealth creation for themselves and our broader economy. The Down Payment Assistance Program will provide new opportunities for economic mobility for these entrepreneurs who are too often shut out of the traditional financial system.”
In the past year, Accion Opportunity Fund disbursed 2,422 loans totaling $113.2 million in capital to small businesses, primarily to entrepreneurs of color, women, and/or low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs. Since launching trucking lending in 2010, Accion Opportunity Fund has invested over $360 million in trucking through more than 6,300 loans, including loans to more than 5,700 first-time truck buyers.
“As a transportation engineer, I know the strong opportunities for entrepreneurship and greater financial capital that exist in the transportation industry. We must ensure historically disadvantaged communities are included in these opportunities for growth,” Miller said. “Today, Accion Opportunity Fund and Truist Foundation are taking meaningful steps to level the playing field and the Moore-Miller administration is grateful for their partnership as we work to create pathways to work, wages and wealth for all Marylanders across all sectors.”
More than half of Baltimore’s privately held businesses are owned by Black, Indigenous and people of color individuals. And while people of color are leading the nation’s small business boom, they are more likely to be denied credit or approved for smaller amounts than white business owners. Small business ownership, which includes self-employed truckers, is a proven path to building household wealth and financial security. On average, business-owning households earn more than twice the wealth of their wage-earning peers—and this impact is even more pronounced for business owners of color. Accion Opportunity Fund aims to help create equal opportunities and grow this revenue.
“The collaboration between Accion Opportunity Fund and Truist Foundation aligns with our commitment to financially empowering our minority and women entrepreneurs in the trucking industry,” Scott said. “A few months ago, we announced a $10,000 hiring and retention bonus to eligible existing and new city employees who require a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) to work. Now, through the Accion Opportunity Fund, we are equitably providing access to affordable capital that allows truck drivers to establish wealth for themselves and scale their business. It is the gift that keeps on giving.”
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.