Financial institutions have been increasingly recognizing the potential of Southern California's ethnic and minority communities. One of the latest efforts to foster economic development in those communities is a $77-million, three-year pilot program launched by Merrill Lynch, the Greenlining Institute and the Orange County Alliance.
The program is taking a three-pronged approach to investment in ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Under the first initiative, $20 million in mortgages in Orange County will be available for first-time home buyers, in some cases providing 100% financing.
The second, the small-business initiative, will provide $20 million in loans to qualifying firms, and $5 million in equity investments by Merrill Lynch in entrepreneurial ventures.
The final piece involves a series of workshops about saving, investing and financial planning, internships for high school and college students, and academic scholarships. Also, $4 million in grants will be awarded to nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles and Orange counties to encourage efforts in job training, financial literacy, entrepreneurship and technology and business investment.