Block, the US tech firm founded by Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, will invest £2m into a Birmingham-based community business investment programme backing firms in the West Midlands.
ART Business Loans is a not-for-profit community development finance institution (CDFI) that provides loans to businesses unable to access finances from banks and other mainstream lenders.
The £2m provided by Block will make up half of a £4m funding package for ART, with the rest provided by Unity Trust Bank.
“This deal is a real game-changer for us and a great vote of confidence from such well-established institutions as Block and Unity Trust Bank,” said ART chief executive Dr Steve Walker.
“With the backing and support of these two allies, ART has never been in a stronger position to write the next chapter of our 25-year history.”
ART provides business loans from between £10,000 and £150,000, with a focus on underserved communities.
“This £4m agreement puts ART on a firm financial footing at a time of considerable economic uncertainty and enables us to continue to provide key financial support to SMEs across the West Midlands, many of whom are currently facing considerable financial headwinds,” Walker added.
The £2m from Block, formerly known as Square, will come from its $100m (£83.7m) social impact investment fund, which was launched by the company back in 2020. The goal of the fund is to back social causes in markets beyond the US.
The funding for the Birmingham lender marks Block’s first UK-based social impact investment.
“We are thrilled to be making our first UK social impact investment. ART’s efforts to help underserved groups access fair and responsible finance are completely aligned with Block’s mission of economic empowerment,” said Amrita Ahuja, COO and CFO of Block.
“We believe fair access to finance is what unlocks opportunities for individuals and communities and are pleased to be able to invest in local programs that further this mission.”
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