“There’s free financial education courses delivered in partnership with Operation Hope,” says Sharon Speyer, president of Huntington Northwest Ohio. “What we are trying to do, and what we are hopeful about, is that by focusing on increasing business ownership and growth for ethnically and racially diverse business owners that we can make a difference in our community.”
After the difficult times of 2020 and into 2021, Speyer says, Huntington affiliates saw the struggles of small businesses around the country and knew it had the resources and drive to help.
“We believe very strongly that we need to live our purpose, and our purpose is to help others and to help other people achieve their goals, their dreams and to make a meaningful impact in the communities we serve,” says Speyer, “and between the pandemic and the social unrest, we are very mindful of the impact on small businesses, particularly small businesses that are run by people of color, by women, and we wanted to do something about it.”
It doesn’t end with the loan process. Of course, the access to capital is an important and major piece to the puzzle, Speyer says. But where do business owners go from there? Business leaders who are struggling are often burdened with more than just business financials, and often feel they have nowhere to turn for educational support.
So, Huntington engaged in outreach with community partners and began working with its clients when they visited or called in to their local branch. During the pandemic, it’s been difficult and sometimes impossible to invite Huntington clients into its branches, but Speyer urges community members to visit the website or to call in to their local banking center for support.
“A differentiator is that access to capital is just one piece of Lift Local,” says Speyer. “The other piece of it is really the part that, what do I do? How do I put together a business plan? And so coupling the educational piece, which is all online and available to anyone even if they don’t apply to the Lift Local program, it really gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to learn about what they need to do before they come in and make an application.”
However important, the Lift Local Business Program and the Community Plan at large is one leg of Huntington’s efforts to bring relief and assistance to businesses and business leaders. Huntington has also implemented a 24-hour grace period as well as a $50 safety zone for overdraft fees, meaning anything under $50 won’t incur an overdraft fee.
“No customers are monolithic. We’re all a little bit different. What we’re hopeful for, and what we continue to do, is talk to our clients one at a time and tailor the solution for their needs,” says Speyer. “The needs in Chicago are going to be different from the needs in Cleveland, and the needs in Detroit are going to be different than the needs in Toledo. We provide a multitude of programs that can really help all of our communities. They’re all important.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the Huntington Lift Local Business Program, please click here. As Speyer mentioned, the community is here to help, and whether you access a Paycheck Protection Program loan, apply for a Small Business Relief Grant or get connected with us here at the Toledo Chamber or one of our expert counselors at the Small Business Development Center, the community is working together to support and uplift our business community.
“My philosophy is that we want to help as many people achieve their dreams. So whether it’s home ownership, whether it’s starting a business, whether it’s paying for college, whatever that is, that’s living our purpose,” says Speyer. “We are very grateful to be part of this community. We believe that we have a responsibility to help make people’s lives better, help businesses thrive and strengthen the communities we serve. We do that in a lot of ways, and that is our privilege.”