Financial Lending & Innovation Collaborative receives $100,000 to expand program
The Berks County Commissioners allocate $100,000 of County funds to support the Financial Lending & Innovation Collaborative (FLIC) spearheaded by Alvernia University’sO’Pake Institute for Economic Development & Entrepreneurship.
“The County is thrilled to be taking steps to put our IMAGINE Berks plan into action and not just become another plan that collects dust on a shelf,” said Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach. “We have wonderful institutions and organizations within our community like the O’Pake Institute that have a groundwork in place to maximize these dollars to strengthen the County’s overall economic development.”
The allocation to the FLIC program is part of the County’s implementation of the first year of the IMAGINE Berks economic development plan. One of the key action items for the first year of the plan was to create a high-risk micro-lending fund. Through this collaboration with the O’Pake Institute, the County is able to help expand and accelerate the FLIC program to further support and encourage entrepreneurship.
“The County funds to support FLIC are extremely important to the program as they have essentially doubled the funds we have raised with our industry partners and private supporters that is now readily available as early-stage funding that fuels innovation, entrepreneurship, and regional economic growth,” said Dr. Rodney S. Ridley Sr., VP of research, economic development and innovation and COO of the O’Pake Institute.
FLIC assists Alvernia’s O’Pake Institute in helping community entrepreneurs and small businesses by providing access to funding during the early stages of the business. These funds are provided by participating financial institutions, foundations, philanthropic donors, and community organizations to assist early-stage entrepreneurs in obtaining funds.The FLIC had initially planned to award 3-5 project grants each quarter in a value of up to $5,000. With this additional funding from the County, the program will be able to greatly increase that volume.
“It sends a clear signal to everyone that this region is serious about creating an environment that will support early-stage entrepreneurship and small business through micro-grants and micro-loans that are typically extremely hard to acquire. We thank the county's leadership team for their progressive support of these efforts,” said Ridley.
Early-stage and established businesses enter The O’Pake Insitute’s Spark business incubator client services intake process as funding candidates to receive a feasibility analysis and needs assessment to determine funding eligibility.
Once a business is funded, services through the Spark incubator network become available. Services include but are not limited to business planning, technology transfer, social media marketing, branding, and website development. Funded businesses are also required to match funding dollars or goods and services to the community.
Alvernia students in the Fellows Program gain experiential learning through FLIC and their participation in the O’Pake Finance Committee. The committee works with FLIC to produce financial statements, foster financial literacy, and develop business plans for entrepreneurs while preparing them to become clients at The Spark business incubator to gain extended entrepreneurial resources.