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Duluth foundation gets $2 million for local biz development

The Northland Foundation, a Duluth-based nonprofit that assists small- and medium-sized businesses throughout Northeast Minnesota, learned today that it will receive a $2 million grant from the U.S. Treasury Department.

The Northland Foundation, a Duluth-based nonprofit that assists small- and medium-sized businesses throughout Northeast Minnesota, learned today that it will receive a $2 million grant from the U.S. Treasury Department.

The funds will be used to provide loans to businesses in order to preserve and create jobs.

The Northland Foundation was one of 59 organizations nationwide to receive a grant through the Treasury Department's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. In all, the grants totaled $90 million, about one-fifth of what applicants collectively had sought.

"It's an extremely competitive process," said Mark Pinsky, president and CEO of the Opportunity Finance Network, an organization that represents community development financial institutions across the nation.

The Northland Foundation is a member of the Opportunity Finance Network. Northland typically makes between $2.5 million and $5 million in loans each year, according to John Elden, the agency's director of business finance.

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The CDFI grant represents new dollars for the Northland Foundation, which last received funding through the federal program nearly a decade ago.

The Northland Foundation began lending to businesses in 1988, attempting to bridge the gap between what private lenders were willing to provide and what area businesses needed to sustain and grow their operations in Northeast Minnesota. Since its inception, the group has lent more than $40 million, but that money has leveraged an additional $250 million of investments, mostly from private sources. Northland reports its activities have helped create or retain more than 6,000 jobs in the area.

The group serves Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis counties.

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