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.
Peter P. Case, Merrill Lynch's senior district vice president, said the partnership underscores the investment firm's belief that "business can be conducted profitably in Southern California's dynamic ethnic communities."
The Greenlining Institute is a research, policy and advocacy organization specializing in minority and low-income issues. The Orange County Alliance is a coalition of minority business and community groups.
Patrice Apodaca covers economic issues for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-5979 and at firstname.lastname@example.org