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Bond Fund Will Help Provide Small-Business Loans

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Mutual fund investors with a spirit for both altruism and entrepreneurship may have found the investment vehicle they’ve been looking for.

On February 16, CRAFund Advisors and the Community Reinvestment Fund announced the launch of their $50 million “Small Business Initiative” -a program designed to provide loans to small businesses in minority and other communities affected by Hurricane Katrina or other natural disasters.

The CRA Qualified Investment Fund (CRAIX), an intermediate-term bond fund founded in 1999, will fund the initiative. CRAIX, which has been awarded three stars by Morningstar, has purchased $1.5 billion in securities for community development to date throughout the United States for its portfolio.

Alyssa Greenspan, CRAFund Advisors’ director and portfolio manager, said in a conference call that the CRAIX fund may appeal to any individual, corporation, public pension, government entity, bank, or institution interested in a competitive investment that also generates capital for troubled communities.

“Our investors want a good return,” Greenspan said, “but they also are interested in making a difference in the world and in their communities. There is a strong agreement among them on the need to provide more support to small business operators, particularly those who might not otherwise have ready access to capital.”

According to CRAFund Advisors, investments for the Small Business Initiative will likely include: Small Business Administration loans and pools; U.S. Department of Agriculture pools and loans; and taxable municipal bonds and asset-backed securities that finance economic development and enterprise growth.

CRAFund currently holds a $15 million stake in small business loans. With the new initiative, it is seeking to expand that amount to $50 million in cooperation with the Community Reinvestment Fund.


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