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The Washington County Microlending Project

Every year, the McDonough Scholars participate as consultants in the Washington County Microlending Project, a local initiative designed to spur economic development and entrepreneurship. The idea for this project came from Frank Christy, a former Marietta College Trustee and President of Marietta-based Christy & Associates, Inc.

Local banks provide the funds, which are used in financing a new or struggling business. McDonough Scholars serve as consultants — helping the clients in the application process, developing a business plan, etc. The Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District manages the loans, including the loan processing. Marietta-based Small Business Development Center (SBDC) works with clients applying for the microloan. These loans can be as small as $500 and up to $15,000 and are used for both business start up and expansion.

The McDonough students gain valuable real-world experience through their participation in this project. Clients whose applications are approved also receive assistance from the McDonough consultants in areas such as an enhanced marketing strategy or Web site design.

The inspiration for this project came from Christy observing the growing success of microlending as an engine for local economic development in different parts of the world. One of the key players in the rise of microlending on a global scale was Professor Muhammad Yunus—founder and Managing Director of Grameen Bank, which currently operates 2,475 branches providing credit to 7.4 million poor people residing in 80,511 villages in Bangladesh. He originated the concept of banking without collateral for the poorest of the poor. According to the Grameen Bank, the repayment rate for these loans is more than 98 percent. He started the Grameen Bank Project in 1976. It was transformed into a formal bank in 1983. Grameen offers small loans for self employment for the rural poor, especially poor women. Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2006.

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