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Emanuel boasts city program has made 250 ‘microloans’

Mayor Rahm Emanuel went to the Pullman Cafe on Sunday to tout a milestone for a small-business loan program started five years ago. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Sunday touted the success of a program he started five years ago to offer loans to small businesses that would have a hard time qualifying for such a loan from a traditional bank.

Chicago put $1 million in the coffers of the Chicago Microlending Institute in 2011 and has since partnered with corporations that have helped the program loan $2.6 million through several approved lenders.

On Sunday afternoon, Emanuel spoke at the Pullman Cafe, an eatery and coffee shop in the Pullman neighborhood. The cafe used a $12,000 CMI loan to open in 2015. Emanuel boasted the program had hit a milestone of 250 loans — mostly in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $15,000.

“It was a unique idea I actually learned in my time at the Clinton White House,” Emanuel said. “And it was something that we had started particularly in underserved parts of the world.”

Rachel Bernier-Green used the latest loan to expand her baking business, Laine’s Bake Shop, which has inked deals with Whole Foods and Starbucks and is opening a storefront this spring.

“We got our start as a tiny business . . . we wouldn’t have had access to these opportunities,” Bernier-Green said.