$25,000 Awardee – Innovation
Based in Cleveland, Georgia, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), formerly known as Appalachian Community Enterprises, received the Innovation award for its new green microenterprise and business lending program. In 2009, ACE launched Georgia Green Loans, which provides capital to businesses that provide an eco-friendly product or service or that wish to operate more sustainably. In its first year of operation, Georgia Green Loans provided $377,756 to 16 businesses including a green architect, a solar installation operation, and a manufacturer of organic cotton baby goods as well as alternative transport, composting, and water pollution prevention businesses. Environmental metrics gathered include reduction in energy usage, materials removed from the waste stream, water use reduction, toxins eliminated, and renewable energy generated. By boldly stating a commitment to sustainability, ACE has attracted new partnerships and funding including a competitive $700,000 grant from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, an SBA PRIME grant to create the national Academy of Green Micro-enterprise Development, and SBA Microloan Program financing to support a joint effort among ACE and two other lenders to provide green loans in every Georgia county.